The threat that the West Midlands may be run by an elected mayor will be enough to convince council leaders they must make a city region work, a senior local government official claimed yesterday.
Stephen Hughes, chief executive of Birmingham City Council, defended plans for a 14-person executive board to take charge of transportation, housing, economic development and skills training.
He said the board - consisting of eight council leaders, representatives from Government quangos and the business community - would have a vested interest in working effectively.
"If it doesn't work, then someone will deliver an elected mayor. They don't want that, so they will have a very strong incentive to make it work," Mr Hughes said.
Rejecting the idea that the board would have to have a leader, he said the sensitivities of the West Midlands councils were such representatives would have to adopt a "consensual" approach.
Mr Hughes added: "One of the difficulties for this area is that each of the component parts of the conurbation has a very strong sense of its own locality. The idea of an elected mayor would create additional tensions."
He admitted that no decision has yet been taken on the leadership issue or what to call the proposed city region. An application for city region status from the seven West Midlands metropolitan councils and Telford & Wrekin Council, is about to be lodged with the Government.
Mr Hughes' remarks, at the Urban Land Institute Europe Cinderella Cities conference in Birmingham, were greeted with scepticism from some delegates.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of the Labour opposition group on Birmingham City Council, said a city region that could not decide what to call itself or who to appoint as leader would slide into "lowest common denominator politics".
Tom Murphy, a former mayor of Pittsburgh, warned the West Midlands would find it difficult to take quick decisions with a committee consisting of 14 people.