PM's upbeat message for East Midlands business

David Cameron Image copyright PA
Image caption David Cameron said the East Midlands had one of the best business creation rates

The prime minister has given an upbeat assessment of economic growth creating new jobs and homes in the East Midlands.

He says no other region has seen more businesses start-ups.

"If you look at the rate of business creation, the East Midlands is one of the areas where businesses are starting up faster than anywhere else," he told me.

And he dismissed the findings of an independent report that warns economic growth in the East Midlands is being hampered by government funding cuts.

That warning came after research by the respected think-tank The Smith Institute and the Business School of Nottingham Trent University.

The report's authors - Richard Clark and Diana Gilhespy- said the East Midlands is disproportionately losing out to other regions, through cuts in the Regional Growth Fund.

Their findings reveal it received 5.4% in the latest rounds of allocation, while it got 8.9% of a much bigger pot under the previous government.

"I don't think the East Midlands is losing out," said David Cameron.

"The East Midlands is well placed to expand and grow under this government. The Regional Growth Fund is just one of the policies we have."

Whether for export or the High Street, we still make things to sell in the East Midlands.

There are 265,000 people working in manufacturing in the East Midlands. It's more than any other region.

Manufacturing in the region was worth £12.4bn in 2009. That's 15.8% of the region's total output, also the highest of any region.

So when it comes to the government's aim of rebalancing the economy in favour of manufacturing and the private sector, the East Midlands is already leading the way.

So that helps explain why there are political grumblings over the shifting of government spending programmes away from the region to the North and South.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The prime minister said not enough homes were being built

Linked to the region's economic growth, the organisation that represents East Midlands Councils - many of them Conservative-run - says the East Midlands is now also losing out under the Affordable Housing Programme.

It claims the East Midlands now receives 4%. That's almost half of what it had been getting.

With one of the fastest growing population in the UK (after London and the East of England) the worry is that the economy will held back by a lack of new homes.

"They're looking at the wrong thing," said Mr Cameron.

"The problem is not just affordable homes, the problem is that we're not building enough homes. Period.

"And what this government has done is to make it easier now for builders to build.

"We've changed the planning system and are cutting out the bureaucracy.

"That's how we get Britain building, so that people in the East Midlands can afford to buy their first flat or home."

The prime minister was speaking to me in Downing Street as he prepared for the Conservatives' annual party conference.

Huge swings to the Tories in the East Midlands helped put Mr Cameron into Number 10 at the last general election.

And this prime minister knows the region's economy - both manufacturing and construction - will determine how the voters swing the next time.