The most fundamental change in West Midlands local government in more than 30 years is on the horizon. Chief Reporter Paul Dale looks at what it will mean and the issues that still need to be overcome...
It is now a question of when, not if, councils will be freed from the yoke of Whitehall domination.
And the West Midlands - a region once regarded as famously dysfunctional and notorious for petty tribal wars between its various constituent parts - appears to have achieved the impossible.
It has united around a common theme - the formation of city-region status - and is close to persuading the Government to grant it sweeping new powers.
Talks on Thursday between West Midlands council leaders, key regional stakeholders and Local Government Minister David Miliband, were described as extremely constructive.
The odds are now firmly in favour of a summer White Paper setting out in detail Government proposals for city-regions, with Greater Birmingham at the forefront of the new system.
One local government representative who attended the Miliband talks said: "This is not a lobbying exercise. We have won the city-region argument.
"This is now about developing something that actually works, where central Government can have the trust that we can actually deliver."
What, exactly, is a city-region and how will it differ from existing local authority arrangements?
Supporters of the idea are keen to point out what a city-region is not. It will not mean re-inventing the West Midlands County Council. In fact, it should not involve the creation of costly new bureaucracies to any great extent.
It is actually about Government handing councils far greater powers to decide - working in partnership with each other - strategies for economic development, regeneration, transport, housing and skills.
Crucially, a proportion of budgets from quangos such as Advantage West Midlands and the Learning and Skills Council would be handed to the city-region, which would also have limited tax raising powers.
The Birmingham city-region could have a budget of more than #750 million a year and, equally crucially, would enjoy executive powers to spend that money without having to go through the existing time-consuming process of seeking approval from various quangos and the Government Office.
There would be more freedom to raise taxes, to borrow and to form arms-length companies.
It is the tax-raising potential, which would be capped to a maximum amount to be decided by the Government, that could allow the city-region to develop a transportation fund for key regional projects - with the redevelopment of New Street Station a major priority.
These are exactly the types of freedoms enjoyed by major European and American city-regions, but denied by Britain's centralised form of government. It has not mattered which political party ran the country; certainly since 1974 UK Governments have had an instinctive mistrust of local government which has been viewed as profligate, inefficient and in need of firm control.
The tide is turning, as was made clear by the publication this week of a Government paper on devolving decision making which makes it clear that no change is not an option.
In a forward, entitled The importance of cities, the paper states: "A central principle of the Government's established economic approach is to devolve decision making to the most appropriate level, finding the correct mix of decentralisation and devolution to local and regional levels.
"This makes it imperative for regions, cities and local authorities to have clarity of purpose, strong leadership, good organisational ability and flexibility along with the necessary policy levers."
The document also accepts both the economic and political argument for allowing city-regions to have greater powers to decide their own future, pointing out that most of the leading UK regions, including Birmingham and Manchester, are still not punching their weight when compared to major European cities.
There is of course much work to be completed before the Birmingham city-region gets under way, not least reaching a decision about the physical boundaries of such a region.
The latest thinking from the leaders of the seven metropolitan councils is that they, plus Telford & Wrekin Council, should form the city-region, which would be controlled by an executive committee of the council leaders and business representatives.
The committee would agree challenging targets with the Government to deliver sustainable long-term improvements to jobs, prosperity and quality of life.
The former Labour MEP Simon Murphy has been appointed as the #90,000-a-year project director to help "deliver the vision".
Mr Miliband, however, may be thinking about a larger city-region. The Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-leaning thinktank close to New Labour, recently published a discussion document setting out the case for a Greater Birmingham city-region based on 13 local authorities - the seven Mets plus councils in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.
He may also be considering the possibility that a directly-elected mayor should provide the political leadership for a city-region covering such a large area, on the basis that an executive committee would not provide the decisive decision-making the Government wishes to see.
Work will also need to take place on the disaggregation of the budgets of Advantage West Midlands and the Learning and Skills Council in order to decide the proportion that should be handed over to the city-region. The precise working arrangements between the city-region and AWM and the LSC must be approved.
But the most difficult issue of all, with the greatest potential to cause friction, is what to call the city-region?
Mr Miliband has referred to Greater Birmingham, but such a title would not be to the liking of the Black County councils or Coventry, where suspicion of Birmingham's domination remains an issue.
Simon Murphy sidesteps the name issue, preferring instead to highlight the remarkable unanimity between the West Midlands councils that has promoted the city-region to the top of the political agenda.
"It is about taking more control of our own destiny and the end product will be better paid jobs, more of them, and value added to the economy," he said.