Business and council leaders from across the West Midlands have set out a series of demands for Chancellor Alistair Darling as he prepares to present his make-or-break budget.
They urged the Government to press ahead with long-term schemes to transform the region, including bringing high speed rail services to Birmingham, dramatically expanding Birmingham International Airport and helping the region’s manufacturing industries adapt to a high-tech and “green” economy.
They also demanded Government backing for short-term projects which could make a big difference to the region, including finding money to extend Birmingham International Airport’s runway and building a planned Manufacturing Technology Centre at Ansty Park in Warwickshire.
And they called for more investment in housing and transport, including the construction of 45,350 new homes.
The manifesto for the region was issued by the West Midlands Joint Strategy and Investment Board, which is recognised by the Government and includes the leaders of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Staffordshire and Herefordshire Councils.
Other members include Barrie Williams, chairman of Business Voice West Midlands, which represents industry in the region.
The statement said: “We want to create a more prosperous West Midlands region, with Birmingham at its heart as our regional capita
Mr Darling will use the Labour’s last Budget before the General Election to launch a £2 billion “green” investment bank, stressing Labour’s commitment to supporting manufacturing and boosting regional economies .
It will be funded jointly by the Treasury and the private sector, and could also buy stakes in offshore wind farms, nuclear power stations and high-speed rail lines. The Treasury’s share will come from the sale of assets such as disused land.
The measure is part of the Government’s efforts to shift the balance of Britain’s economy so that the nation depends less on the banking sector and more on high-skilled manufacturing.
The Budget statement will set the tone for the General Election campaign, which could begin within a fortnight if Mr Brown announces a poll on April 6 as some expect.
Better-than-expected tax and borrowing figures have given the Chancellor more leeway than anticipated - up to £12 billion, according to experts.
But he is likely to announce the money will be spent on measures to create jobs rather than tax cuts.
However, Mr Darling is expected to make a promise not to raise the rate of VAT - putting pressure on Conservatives to do the same.
Whoever wins the next election may be forced to put up taxes to reduce the deficit, and there is speculation that Tories are considering a VAT increase.
Labour MP Steve McCabe (Lab Hall Green) said: “This Budget will reassure the markets that we have a plan for cutting the deficit without wrecking the economy, and it will show that our commitment to new technologies and industry is real.”