Former Home Secretary David Blunkett has backed proposals to devolve more power to cities such as Birmingham.
He said regional bodies such as Advantage West Midlands were incapable of providing the level of leadership required.
Instead, city regions based around core cities including Birmingham should be allowed to make their decisions on policy regions such as transport and training.
They should also be allowed to raise their own funding, with more control over council tax and business rates, and the freedom to raise extra funds from sources such as congestion charges.
Mr Blunkett made the comments in a pamphlet published today by think-tank the New Local Government Network.
It was published in advance of a Government White Paper which is due out in October.
Ministers have been consulting councils on which extra powers they could receive. They have also warned local authorities they must provide strong leadership in order to receive greater freedom.
Mr Blunkett said: "What has become known as city regions, is of course a misnomer. We don't really mean a region at all. We mean the economic, cultural and employment spin-off from the dynamic that constitutes the modern core city.
"London is a self-evident example and so is Birmingham, with the conurbations around it, and the urban entity described as Greater Manchester."
Power had to be devolved to a very local level, he said. "In describing how to take forward the city region we need a debate which is more than whether we should have city mayors!
"In some areas they may be appropriate but they are not the solution.
"Leadership is always vital. It's often given by politicians in whatever structures, and where it isn't there are, on occasion, paid chief executives who fulfil the role, or attempt to fill the vacuum.
"So, we need to develop leadership at community and neighbourhood level."