West Midland business leaders have challenged Gordon Brown to pay a pre-election visit to the West Midlands to hear the concerns of companies at first hand.

The gauntlet was thrown down in the wake of disappointment that the Chancellor had failed in a speech to the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference in London to pledge no further rises in business taxes.

In contrast, opposition leader Michael Howard promised that a Conservative Government would peg taxes for at least its first year.

Mr Brown used his speech to underlined the Government?s continuing commitment to economic stability and indicated that British entry to the euro was as far off as ever.

In response, BCC president Bill Midgley said that while employers valued the undoubted benefits of long-term stability they would be disappointed that the Chancellor had ?skirted around? giving a firm commitment that a future Labour Government would not increase business taxes.

?He missed a golden opportunity to reassure the business community that it will not face big tax increases after the election,? Mr Midgley said.

In a recent BCC survey of 550 business leaders, 90 per cent said future tax increases would have a damaging impact on their firms.

Mr Midgley welcomed Mr Howard?s pledge on taxes but added: ?Businesses are looking for long-term stability of the tax regime.? Commitments to cut red tape and boost skills ? from both Mr Howard and Labour ? showed the politicians were listening to the concerns of business, he said.

?However, many promises in these areas have been made in the past. Employers will be looking for the next Government to deliver.?

Louise Beard, chief executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said Mr Brown?s record of stability was ?impressive so far? but worryingly all the signs point to a rise in business taxes after May 5.

?I firmly hope that is avoided and that business is not forced to make ends meet on the increased borrowing of recent years,? Ms Beard added.

Ian Brough, her counterpart at the Black Country Chamber, said he had invited Mr Brown to meet companies in the West Midlands and hear their concerns at first hand. ?We have already asked Mr Brown to become involved in our initiatives to encourage and mentor young business leaders. We also urge him to visit the Black Country to see for himself the efforts being made to improve our skills base and to hear from real businesses what they need from Government,? Mr Brough said.

Fears about a potential rise in business taxes was also expressed by Jerry Blackett, policy director of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He said: ?Although it is good to see parties jostling to win the business vote, what matters most to business in a world of global competition is long-term financial stability, low inflation, low interest rates and good, steady growth.?