A fund set up to help sacked MG Rover workers find new jobs is to be used to pay a university academic £140,000 to carry out a socio-economic study of Birmingham city centre.
The cost of hiring Professor Michael Parkinson to lead the first stage of drawing up a 30-year development plan for central Birmingham will be met from £4 million the city council set aside to cope with the demise of Longbridge.
A year after the car plant closed, with the loss of about 6,000 jobs, 1,011 former workers remain unemployed.
Prof Parkinson and his team from Liverpool John Moores University have begun analysing economic, social, cultural, transportation and environmental trends and will present a draft report by the end of October.
The overall cost of the masterplan, which will be the first strategy document to take in the entire city centre inside the middle ring road, could amount to £390,000. The council is to submit a bid for £250,000 to the European Regional Development Fund to help foot the bill.
The decision to use MG Rover money for a planning exercise was "entirely appropriate", according to council cabinet regeneration member Ken Hardeman.
C oun Hardeman (Con Brandwood) said Prof Parkinson was being asked to under-take an important piece of work that would enable the council to attract inward investment and create new jobs.
The lack of a single planning document covering the city centre had held Birmingham back in the past, he said.
Labour criticised the decision as a "raid on the MG Rover pot".
Ian Ward, deputy leader of the Labour group, said: "I don't think the former MG Rover employees who are still with-o ut work will be very impressed to hear that the council is raiding money set aside to help them."
Coun Ward (Lab Shard End) said Labour supported in principle the development of a masterplan because it would put an end to the "dithering that has held Birmingham back".
The Transport and General Workers Union also questioned the decision.
TGWU spokesman Andrew Dodgson said: "It doesn't seem right. You have a dedicated fund set up for a laudable purpose which is being used inappropriately."
Coun Hardeman said the masterplan would help prospective investors.
He added: "Many people look at Birmingham and they often ask about our plans for a particular area over the next ten years or so. In many cases we have been unable to give clarity because we haven't had a long-term city centre masterplan.
"Yes, almost £400,000 is a lot of money but this is an exercise that is going to be beneficial. The merit in having a masterplan will more than pay for the cost in a very short time because investors will be given the confidence they need to do business in Birmingham."
Coun Hardeman said £140,000 would meet the cost of work by Prof Parkinson and his team.
He added: "He has not been hired to write a good-news story. He has been hired to give a warts-and-all view of Birmingham. That is what we want him to do."
Clive Dutton, the council's director of planning and regeneration, said the masterplan would strengthen the city centre's role as the "engine room of the national economy and as the capital of the British Midlands".
The masterplan would be a catalyst for further regeneration of the city centre by helping to build a more sustainable environment for the future after the closure of MG Rover, Mr Dutton added.