Birmingham should be bold, imaginative, confident - and "swagger like the Scousers do".

The blunt advice came from Professor Michael Parkinson, one of the country's leading thinkers on the role of cities, who is advising the council on a new masterplan for the development of Birmingham city centre.

It was delivered as it emerged discussions between Birmingham and Government officials could revolutionise the way local authorities raise money for regeneration projects – potentially triggering millions of pounds for new investment.

Ministers are understood to be seriously considering a scheme that would enable local authorities to re-mortgage part of their property portfolio.

The proposal, broadly similar to the way Private Finance Initiatives work, could see buildings sold to financial consortia and then leased back over 30 or 50 years by the council.

Huge capital sums raised through the scheme would be used by Birmingham City Council to pay for a new generation of high-profile civic projects to match the ICC and Brindleyplace.

Two schemes have been earmarked – the transformation of Digbeth into a creative quarter and the redevelopment of the 21-acre wholesale markets site on the edge of the city centre.

The possibility of using property assets to release funding streams would be of particular significance in Birmingham, where two-thirds of city centre buildings are owned by the council. Details of the embryonic initiative were released yesterday at the Birmingham Conference, a gathering of more than 150 representatives from public and private sectors to plan a 20-year city centre development prospectus.

Prof Parkinson, from Liverpool John Moores University and a Government adviser on city planning, said: "This could be an important opportunity. Birmingham could take the lead on new, innovative ways of funding long term development."

Prof Parkinson said the redevelopment of Birmingham city centre in the 1990s, which delivered the ICC, Brindleyplace, Centenary Square and the pedestrianisation of New Street, was financed through a combination of public and private money.

Looking ahead at the next phase of redevelopment, public money would not be available in large sums. Enlargement of the European Union made it unlikely that Birmingham would ever again qualify for significant redevelopment grants, he warned.

Prof Parkinson added: "In future, we want cities to come forward with business plans. Using their assets to lever in private sector resources. Birmingham could say 'this is something we really want to do'."

The idea is being backed by city council leader Mike Whitby, who pointed out that the council's pioneering decision to build the NEC in the 1970s was largely dependent on European funding. That option was no longer open to Birmingham.

Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) added: "We need to look at how we lever in money from the private sector. The Government cannot always provide the money.

"Public-private partnerships in Birmingham are talked about throughout Europe. The French are looking at them. The Germans are looking at them. We need to use our assets to make this happen."

Mark Kleinman, director of urban, regional and economic policy at the Department for Communities and Local Government, said: "We are looking at ways of releasing some of the public sector assets and using the value to drive future private sector development."

* Does Birmingham need to show more self-confidence? Can it learn something from Liverpool? Tell us your opinion by email, or leave a message on the forum.

>> Time to unleash Brum's potential 
>> Quality input needed 
>> The search for Birmingham's heart and soul 
>> Raising the profile - but where's the voice of youth 
>> The Parkinson view 

>> Post Comment