New ‘City Deals’ creating thousands of jobs in Coventry and the Black Country could be signed with the government after ministers invited the regions to draw up ambitious plans for transport, skills and boosting the economy.
Coventry is one of 20 cities invited to come up with ideas for diverting cash and power away from London.
And the Black Country has been invited to apply as a region, including Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell.
Ministers have already signed agreements with eight major cities worth millions of pounds.
Birmingham got £25 million for a new medical centre while Liverpool was promised £75 million to boost the economy.
But the government has come under fire for excluding major cities such as Coventry. Ministers said they wanted to focus on England’s “core cities” in the first round of deals. Treasury minister Greg Clark has now announced plans to expand the scheme.
Local authorities will be invited to draw up proposals stating what they want from the government, and what they can offer in return. This typically means promising to help create jobs.
Although city deals can involve receiving government grants for specific projects, they also typically involve giving councils more control over existing funds administered by Whitehall, and making it easier for them to raise money from the private sector.
Many cities have demanded the right to take responsibility for skills and training, to make sure that workers have the skills local employers need.
Mr Clark said: “My advice would be not simply to copy what has been done elsewhere but to emulate the level of ambition we have seen in a lot of the deals which have already been agreed.
“It should be absolutely transformative. What they need to ask is what will make the biggest difference to the area, and then go for that. This is a big opportunity.”
But there was no guarantee Coventry’s proposals would be accepted if they weren’t ambitious enough, he said.
John Mutton, leader of Coventry City Council, said: “The City Deal presents a really exciting opportunity for us.
“Here in Coventry and the wider local area, we have an impressive track record of doing things differently to unlock growth and create and safeguard jobs.
“And I believe, by working in partnership and unconstrained by boundaries, we will be able to embark on innovative ways to support the city’s and the region’s growth.”
Coun Roger Lawrence, Leader of Wolverhampton City Council, said: “This invitation to bid for a city deal offers the Black Country the opportunity to establish an agreement with government on issues that will make a real difference to local people and local businesses by supporting economic growth and the creation of jobs.
“We have already been working towards a city deal which we’re aiming to be both ambitious and achievable. It is imperative that our response meets the specific needs of the Black Country and for that reason, the focus will be on skills, preparing sites for housing and business and creating better connectivity.”
The City Deal policy is being overseen by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. An agreement already signed with Birmingham will create up to 10,000 jobs, according to the government, and give the city council and neighbouring authorities control of a £1.5 billion investment fund with money from the government, local councils and the private sector.