The Midlands could spearhead Government proposals for city regions and act as a counter-weight to London's dominance, a senior academic has claimed.

The region is in prime position to lead the way with plans to transform local government because of specific demo-graphic and social factors, the University of Warwick's Professor Colin Crouch said.

David Miliband, the Local Government Minister is driving reforms, which would see city regions being formed across the country.

In the Midlands, this would i nvolve a metro-region, including Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Wolverhampton and and the rest of the Black Country becoming part of a wider body which includes the shires.

Mr Miliband has talked about possible city regions for t he Midlands and the North-west.

Prof Crouch, who is based at the Institute of Governance and Public Management at Warwick Business School, said a Midland city region would meet social, demo-graphic and economic criteria.

However, Manchester does not have sufficient links between businesses to enable it to put forward a credible case to create a city region, Mr Crouch said.

He said: "It is not easy to identify Manchester as a city region. If there is a future for city regions, then Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton and the Midlands are in an interesting position."

Prof Crouch, who was speaking at a Policy Forum held at the Institute of Directors Hub in Birmingham City Centre last week, said a city region would need to have a population of at least 1.5 million people.

There would also need to be a degree of density within that population.

The academic also claimed a city region should demonstrate "economic poles" that attract investment and a degree of commuting of employees into these business centres.

A North-west city region, based around Manchester,

would be problematic because much of the business links in that region are spread across a wide area.

The West Midlands region, which contains about 3.5 million people, is more clearly defined, Prof Crouch said.

The next densely populated centres outside of London were Glasgow and Southampton, which had two million and 1.5 million people respectively.

Prof Crouch said the United Kingdom was unusual in that it contains only one major business centre - London.

Other concerns raised at the policy forum were from business leaders who said much of their rates were not spent in the local economy, but were wasted by central Government.

A new city region would only be sustainable if there was more local accountability on finances, the forum heard. Katherine Kerswell, chief executive of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, said that she understood the concerns of business.

Ms Kerswell said: "We collect £80 million that goes directly to Government and we only get £20 million back.

"Our businesses are saying 'Hang on a minute?' and we can see why.

"If we are truly going to be connecting with our local economies these are the questions that need to be answered.

"If people know what the money raised is used for, then there is a better business case for city regions."