A sense that the Bank of England may have snuffed out the West Midlands' tentative recovery needlessly pervaded comments yesterday on its quarter-point in crease in the official interest rates.

Ronnie Bowker, senior partner at Ernst & Young in Birmingham, was among those who feel that existing pressures on households' spending power would present inflation from taking hold on its own. "Although there appears to have been more of a robust economic performance across the West Midlands, with manufacturers' export orders rising for the first time in a year, the black cloud of cost pressures on the horizon is still threatening to dampen the region's economic spirit and this increase will only compound the problem," he said.

"Over the last year, electricity and gas charges have risen by 28.2 per cent, petrol prices by 12 per cent and water rates have increased by 5.5 per cent."

But wage inflation has remained pretty constant leaving consumers with less and less to spend.

"As consumers tighten their purse strings in the coming months, the economy will undoubtedly feel the impact," Mr Bowker added. "Therefore I am not convinced that an interest rate rise was necessary at this stage. The region's business community can expect a difficult time over the coming months."

Ian Smith, chief executive of the EEF West Midlands, denounced the Bank's move as premature.

"With increased political and economic uncertainty overseas, this was the wrong time to raise interest rates," he said.

"The Bank has jumped the gun with today's decision. Business will not look kindly if this rise has to be quickly reversed later in the year."

David Waller, Midlands chairman of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, also argued that the Bank has moved too soon.

"Rising gas and electricity prices are contributing to inflationary pressure, but this is offset by the fragile state of consumer confidence as households face the burden of higher fuel bills," he said.

"While the manufacturing sector is reportedly more optimistic for the future, export levels still remain relatively low.

"Looking further ahead, it is also possible that a downturn in the US economy could have a significant impact."

At the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, Ian Brough, chief executive said "There is a cruel irony the fact that the (Bank's committee) cites rising fuel prices as part of the reason behind raising base rates.

"The Bank needs to ask itself who are the heaviest users of fuel and therefore the worst affected by rising costs -businesses, especially manufacturers.

"Our members have been struggling to cope with dearer fuel and now they are faced with dearer money. We will be writing an urgent letter to the Chancellor, reminding him that out in the real economy, the Bank's actions are not helping."

Harvey Williams, speaking for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, described the Bank's move as a "thunderbolt".

The RICS maintained the position that interest rates needed to be cut to help West Midlands business and industry remain competitive.

Outside London and the southeast house prices have not been moving much, he added. The number of property sales in the region is up 19 per cent on this time last year, Mr Williams added. But this activity has not been accompanied by any great movement in house prices.

David Stevens, president of Solihull Chamber, said blunt-ly: "This is a bad move.

"The Bank should have waited for last year's energy prices rises to drop out of the year-on-year calculations of inflation. Instead, it jumped the gun, harming many small and medium-sized businesses."