The Tories say they want to reform the agencies
The Conservatives have denied they will scrap the North East and Cumbria's regional development agencies (RDAs) if they win the general election.
David Cameron plans to get rid of "the regional stuff", according to Labour, which says the public bodies are vital.
But the Tories said they only want to reform the system into partnerships of councils and local businesses.
The Lib Dems support One North East and the North West Development Agency, but want more public accountability.
RDAs were created by the Labour government to further economic development, increase employment, promote business efficiency and competitiveness, and enhance employability skills.
The Conservatives admit the agencies have had some success, but want them to be more efficient and entirely focused on helping businesses, creating jobs and delivering regeneration.
A party spokesman said: "We intend to strengthen local economies by enabling business and elected local authorities to come forward with proposals for new local enterprise partnerships to replace the regional bodies.
"We believe this policy will represent a new deal for local regeneration and economic development: namely locally-led agencies working in real economic areas."
Their proposals include handing housing and planning powers back to local authorities.
The party stressed that the final decision about RDAs would rest with the region's councils.
However, Nick Brown, Labour's Minister for the North East, claimed David Cameron wanted a return to the failed Tory policies that "destroyed jobs and industry in the North East under Mrs Thatcher".
He said: "The strategic investment decisions and support for local businesses taken by One North East are important for our region's economic recovery.
"Business leaders, whatever their political affiliations, support One North East."
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "There is a clear purpose for the RDA and its role is supported by the business community and local authorities."
But RDAs should have greater regional accountability and a remit to work in partnership with all stakeholders in the regional economy, he added.