Politicians were at loggerheads last night over Lin Homer's surprise decision to quit as the £170,000-a-year chief executive of Birmingham City Council.
Mrs Homer will leave in August to head the Immigration and Nationality Directorate at the Home Office.
Her departure, after less than three years in charge of Britain's largest local authority, was described as a " tremendous blow" by the man who appointed her.
Sir Albert Bore, former Labour leader of the council, headed the panel that gave Mrs Homer the job in October 2002.
In an unusually blunt and highly political attack, Sir Albert said he believed Mrs Homer's decision to go reflected the fact that Birmingham had "lost its way".
He said the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, which ousted him from office and took control of the council a year ago, had failed to take decisions about major regeneration projects such as the Midland Metro extension and the new city library.
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) added: "If you talk to people nationally then you will find confirmation of this. Birmingham is not seen as a city which is pushing ahead on a range of agendas. There is a sense that Birmingham has lost its way."
Sir Albert accused Conservative council leader Mike Whitby of failing properly to pay tribute to Mrs Homer's achievements, pointing out that Coun Whitby, in a brief public statement, merely congratulated Mrs Homer on her new position and wished her well for the future.
Sir Albert said: "If that is the response of the leader of the council to this news, then it is no surprise to me that Lin sees her future elsewhere."
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) hit back, accusing Sir Albert of "petty political point scoring".
The council leader added: "We are more interested in grown-up politics.
"The statement was written by myself and Lin Homer and agreed by both of us."
In a defence of his administration, Coun Whitby added: "If I have been dithering then why have I recently had meetings with the Trade and Industry Secretary, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister? It's nonsense to suggest that Birmingham has lost its way."