Peace talks are planned in an effort to defuse the row between Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby and Sir Digby Jones, the director general of the CBI.

The two will meet for a drink shortly, a spokesman for Coun Whitby confirmed last night.

The get-together follows months of glacial relations, which began when Sir Digby publicly accused the council of "talking too much and achieving too little" over the planned redevelopment of New Street Station.

Friends of Sir Digby claim Coun Whitby responded by blocking the appointment of the CBI boss as chairman of an executive committee set up to campaign for the New Street project.

Sir Digby, who will stand down as CBI director general in the summer, is one of several high profile figures who may be asked to play a major role in championing the station redevelopment at Government level.

Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) yesterday sought to play down the dispute. He dismissed as "nonsense" suggestions that he and Sir Digby were barely on speaking terms.

Coun Whitby added: "Sir Digby and I have been due to meet for a chat but the pressure of finding a slot in two heavily congested diaries has meant it hasn't been possible recently. We will be getting together for a catch-up very soon, which I am sure will be on very friendly and productive lines. After all, we both have the best interests of Birmingham at heart."

Sir Digby said he had been happy to respond to a telephone call from Coun Whitby's office suggesting the pair meet soon.

Sir Digby added: "If Coun Whitby wants to ask me to take on the executive chairmanship, and I can bring influence to bear in London, then I will gladly do it.

"If he does not feel that is appropriate then he is the democratically elected leader and I would abide by democracy. If I can help Birmingham then I will. After all, it is my home town."