Chancellor Gordon Brown used the summit to unveil the creation of 2000 "enterprise areas" to encourage economic and physical regeneration in deprived neighbourhoods.
The areas will be exempt from stamp duty on business properties and incorporate business planning zones that will not require planning permission for developments.

Brown said the decision to create these areas showed that the Treasury was determined to concern itself with issues previously seen as outside its remit.

He said: "I think most of you would agree that 50, 20 or even 10 years ago, the idea that the Treasury would be interested in issues like public space, the design quality of public procurement in urban areas, devolution, regionalism and social inclusion would be almost unthinkable."

But Chris Brown, chief executive of the Igloo regeneration fund and a member of the urban taskforce, was less impressed. At a fringe meeting entitled "How do we develop the right skills?", he argued that regeneration was being undermined by the skills crisis.

In particular, he said that the government had failed to produce the centres recommended by the taskforce to help local authorities and the private sector develop skills. "There are no centres of excellence and virtually no leadership from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and before it, the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions."

Chris Brown said it would take at least 10 years to develop skills to deliver an urban renaissance, and called on government to underwrite the establishment of skills centres.

Karen Yeomans, a director at Advantage West Midlands, announced that the regional development agency would launch a skills centre next year.