Relations between the business community and Birmingham's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition have slumped to a new low after city council leaders snubbed a future-of-the-city summit.
Tory council leader Mike Whitby pulled out of the event, dubbed the Three Tenors and organised by professional services lobbyists Birmingham Forward, two weeks ago.
Deputy council leader, Liberal Democrat Paul Tilsley, was supposed to put the case for the coalition at yesterday's lunchtime summit, but decided an hour before the meeting was due to start not to attend.
That allowed Labour opposition leader Sir Albert Bore, the only remaining speaker, an hour to put his vision of Birmingham's future regeneration to 120 of the city's most powerful business leaders.
Demand for tickets was so great that Birmingham Forward had a reserve list of 50 people wishing to attend.
Business representatives were scathing at what they saw as the latest example of deteriorating relations with the council leadership.
Coun Whitby is known to be unhappy at criticism of his record in office levelled by some Birmingham Forward members, particularly suggestions that he is not doing enough to drive forward important regeneration schemes.
Birmingham Forward chairman Derek Inman said: "Coun Whitby and Coun Tilsley missed a trick in not being here. This is a key audience.
"There is a real debate to be had about the future of this city and people want to hear this debate."
Referring to the Tories' two decades in opposition on the council, which ended in June 2004, Mr Inman added: "One of the problems with this city is that we have a leadership that for 20 years has not been leading and they have got to get their act together."
Sir Bernard Zissman, a former Tory Lord Mayor of Birmingham, was concerned that a "partnership of confrontation" was developing between the business community and the council leadership. Birmingham was at its best when all political parties and the private sector pulled together, he said.
Simon Murphy, chief executive of Birmingham Forward, said he understood that Coun Tilsley's last-minute cancellation was the result of an unexpected meeting that the deputy council leader could not miss.
Coun Whitby withdrew because he feared the Birmingham Forward debate would clash with the city council's own Summit for the Future, at which he will be the key speaker next month.
Yesterday's meeting heard a passionate speech from Sir Albert Bore in which the Labour leader called for greater efforts to bring economic regeneration to Birmingham.
Sir Albert said: "Complacency is what worries me.
"Birmingham acknowledged to be in the vanguard of regeneration of British cities.
"But if you speak to those who write about these issues they will say they are worried about Birmingham losing its edge and being overtaken by others."