In the current economic climate, measures to reduce poverty and regenerate neglected areas of the West Midlands are more vital than ever.
However, Advantage West Midlands has little choice but to cut funding for projects.
Its budget has been cut, and it has been ordered to focus what’s left on measures to help business, even if that means taking cash away from communities.
What the funding reduction does show is that central government is cutting funding in some departments as, of course, it has to.
These cuts are likely to become even deeper over the next few years, and AWM won’t be the only service to be affected.
Instead of suggesting that it won’t have to make cuts, Labour might be better advised to come clean about the state of public finances and the effect it may have on services.
There is no reason why voters would assume the Conservatives will do a better job than Labour of shepherding the NHS or the nation’s schools through a lean period. But the suggestion that Labour can somehow avoid reducing spending entirely is just not credible.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has taken a strategic decision to pump as much money as he can into supporting industry through the downturn, even if regeneration schemes have to suffer.
This may be the right choice. Without industry providing jobs, deprived areas are going to stay poor no matter what else is thrown at them.
But the West Midlands MPs who have expressed concern about AWM’s announcement make some telling points. As Richard Burden (Lab Northfield) points out, measures which promote social cohesion are particularly important during a recession.
When the economy is in a rut, tensions between different sections of the community are more likely to arise.
And Caroline Spelman (Con Meriden) is also right to suggest that the difference between supporting industry and regeneration is not as clear-cut is it may seem.
Capital projects designed to lift an area, such as social housing or the construction of a shopping centre, also have a direct influence on local firms by providing work for the construction industry and its suppliers.
AWM’s refusal to name the projects affected is bizarre. It is a public body, which gets most of its money from the Treasury, and should be open about its activities. Excessive secrecy is unlikely to win over MPs who are worried about how their constituencies may be affected.