Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Simon Hughes yesterday accused the Government of being unable to "let go" of local authorities, despite moves to create more self-determining city regions.
Mr Hughes said he doubted David Milliband - the Minister responsible for shaking up local government - was a powerful enough figure to combat old-fashioned, centrist Labour thinkers like Gordon Brown and John Prescott.
Mr Hughes, who grew up in Here-fordshire, said: "It is a bit early to judge whether Milliband will have the persuasive influence within his party.
"Tony Blair has been disappointing on tackling the John Prescott, Gordon Brown view of things which is unwilling to let control go from the centre.
"If city regions are going to work it requires the acceptance of pluralism in Britain the old Brown and Prescott view lacks."
Mr Milliband, in Birmingham yesterday, is proposing the creation of "city regions" which could see the abolition of dozens of West Midlands councils.
Mr Hughes said he agreed with the policy but said the Government did not display trust in authorities not Labour-controlled.
"The Government needs to let go, needs to allow regions to raise their own money, to not cap their council taxes, to let them do their own thing regardless of which political party is in power locally.
"I call it the power of general competence - allowing regions and local authorities to get on with things without having to seek central government permission.
"Really, it harks back to the attitudes of the great city fathers of Birmingham when this city, along with Manchester and Leeds, became great cities of the Empire. "They saw Birmingham as an autonomous entity."
He added simply redrawing local authority boundaries without allowing them greater control would hasten the breakdown of communities.
"It does need a fresh look at the structure below central government but simply redrawing maps just breaks down communities."
Mr Hughes was in Birmingham to hear plans to redevelop New Street Station.
Birmingham City Council and Network Rail are expected to announce the final blueprint for the £350 million revamp of the infamously gloomy station this month.
"I know New Street Station very well indeed and I am glad to hear there are advancing plans to rectify the problems," he said. "It is certainly pretty grim and I'll be doing what I can to put pressure on the Government to release the funds."
The Lib-Dem party chairman is the current bookies favourite to win the leadership contest sparked when former leader Charles Kennedy stepped down after admitting an alcohol problem.
Mr Hughes became embroiled in a subsequent media storm when he admitted being involved in homosexual relationships after previously denying being gay.
But he believes the leadership race has helped heal party divisions.
"The party had a very difficult time recently but since nominations closed, members have been turning up to the meetings in huge numbers."
He added he was confident the Lib-Dems could capture as many as seven seats in the West Midlands at the next election, including those currently represented by Clare Short (Ladywood), Khalid Mahmood (Perry Barr) and Liam Byrne (Hodge Hill).