Business Secretary Vince Cable has set the cat among the pigeons with his strong comments warning that the Government is not ready to hand funding over to Local Enterprise Partnerships.
These are the bodies set up by councils and businesses, at the urging of government, to support local economies.
And it looks like they could be set for a leading role taking over some of the functions of national and local government, after Lord Heseltine, the former Deputy Prime Minister, suggested they should manage huge sums of public money to improve skills, infrastructure and business support services.
Dr Cable has effectively ruled this out – warning that the LEPs are undemocratic, and insisting the Government prefers to work with local authorities instead.
There are two strands to his argument. First, he says, quite correctly, that Lord Heseltine never suggested LEPs would simply be given large sums of money.
Rather, they would have to draw up economic development plans and submit these as bids to central government, with only robust and sensible proposals receiving funds.
But Dr Cable also rejected even this idea – and argued that LEPs did not have the capacity nor the democratic mandate to handle large sums of public money.
He made it very clear that his preferred mechanism for supporting regional economic development was through “city deals” agreed between the Government and councils.
In some ways, this may not seem like a major blow to regions such as the West Midlands, or the area covered by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, which are keen to get working with government to improve the local economy.
If the Government’s preferred mechanism for delivering funding is a partnership of local councils then the councils can take the lead.
But the fact is that ministers have, until now, been pushing a slightly different approach. And the last thing the region needs is confusion about who is in charge and what it should be doing.
Is Vince Cable’s view the view of the Government? That’s unclear.
He appears to have contradicted the announcement made by the Chancellor, George Osborne, in the Budget.
It’s worth noting, too, that the Greater Birmingham LEP and local councils have an excellent record so far of working hand in hand.