The new chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) has said a new combined West Midlands authority body was "inevitable and desirable".
David Sparks, Labour leader of Dudley Council and the new chairman of the LGA, said local authorities could not expect to deliver services within "neat administrative boundaries".
Referring to the Greater Manchester combined authority already in place, Coun Sparks said: "In the West Midlands, if we don't have an organisation similar to Greater Manchester, we will suffer."
But he came under fire from UKIP MEP and Sedgley Councillor Bill Etheridge, who claimed a combined authority would deeply damage local democracy in the Black Country.
He said: "The Black Country is a proud individual area with its own character and identity. Local democracy should be about local people and local priorities not more centralisation."
Despite Coun Etheridge's comments, there appears to be a growing consensus in favour of a combined authority.
Nationally, Conservatives say a future government would devolve power and funding to combined authorities led by a mayor while Labour has published plans to let combined authorities retain business rate increases.
Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore has also backed a combined authority.
Speaking at a conference to mark the centenary of the death of Birmingham mayor Joseph Chamberlain, he said: "Our cities have grown into conurbations over the 20th century and we now have to build our local leadership at the level of the city region and work in partnership with our neighbouring councils."
But talks between councils are at the very earliest stages and there is no agreement so far on which areas could be included in a combined authority or what it might be called.
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