Audit Commission inspectors who criticised Birmingham City Council's "weak" political and managerial leadership lavished praise on rivals Manchester when they visited the North-west.
The commission's 2006 corporate assessment of Manchester City Council referred to the "strong and dynamic" leadership of council leader Sir Richard Leese and the chief executive, Sir Howard Bernstein. Both were overseeing a "can-do culture" and providing inspirational leadership, the inspectors said.
The report says: "There have been many high profile economic successes from the council's ambitious planning, including the Commonwealth Games, the expanded international airport, investment from the Bank of New York, attracting the BBC to relocate to the North-west and rebuilding the city centre following the terrorist bombing."
The analysis of Birmingham for 2007, published earlier this week and described by council leader Mike Whitby as a document to "lift the spirits", criticised weak leadership which was not addressing local and national challenges.
While not identifying individuals, the inspectors said Birmingham City Council was insufficiently committed to working with others to make truly effective partnership possible.
Birmingham was awarded two stars out of a possible four by the Audit Commission, indicating adequate performance at minimum requirements.
Manchester was awarded three stars – performing consistently above minimum requirements. Not every council is assessed at the same time by the Audit Commission, so there is no 2007 report for Manchester.
Last week, Manchester's reputation for regeneration was further strengthened after the council won the licence for the first super-casino – beating Birmingham's NEC which failed to make the shortlist for the regional casino, although Solihull secured the licence for a smaller casino.
The corporate assessment said: "Manchester is performing well. The council is highly ambitious with a strong, well articulated commitment to improve the area and the quality of life for all its residents."
Commenting on Birmingham, the commission said: "The council has high level aspirations but these are not sufficiently outcome focused or consistently challenging. The significant effort put into turning around failing services is resulting in improvement, but much remains to be done."
The inspectors praised Manchester for its clear priorities which were well understood by partners, reflected the needs of residents and provided a good fit with national priorities.
"The organisation is well led and well managed. There is a high calibre of senior officers and senior councillors, who have strong commitment to, and pride in, the city and its ambitions. The council works effectively and imaginatively through partnerships to deliver its priorities," the report adds.
On Birmingham, the inspectors said: "There is a clear focus on improving under-performing services but the council does not have a clear view about what its aim of excellent services means in practice. Approaches to partnership working are improving .....the council's leadership however, in working with partners to meet the longer term needs of the area, is less effective.
"While some are positive about the council's role, too many key partners feel that the council is insufficiently committed to working with others to make truly effective partnership working possible."
Manchester was said to be working well with its partners to develop sustainable communities, although it was not yet consistently driving improvement across the council and its partnerships.
There were many examples of a good strategic approach to older people with engagement and consultation processes leading to positive outcomes, the commission found.
Birmingham did win top marks for schools which were said to compare well to other areas and continuing to improve. Manchester schools were criticised for under achievement.