Some of the biggest names in the world of local government and business are to have their say on whether Birmingham and the West Midlands should be given city region status.

Sir Michael Lyons, who is conducting a Government review into the way councils work, will join Sir Digby Jones, former director general of the CBI, at a conference organised by The Birmingham Post and the NEC Group.

Billed as City Regions: The Big Debate, an invited audience will join a panel of speakers at the ICC in Birmingham on September 11 to debate the future of local government.

Other panellists include David Smith, the leader of Lichfield District Council and chairman of the West Midlands Regional Assembly, and Stella Manzie, chief executive of Coventry City Council.

The conference will consider the advantages of a city region, which would give Birmingham and seven other West Midlands councils new strategic powers to run a number of services.

If approved by the Government, a city region board would be freed from some Whitehall controls and able to take important decisions about regional development. The board could take a proportion of the budgets currently in the hands of Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, and the Learning and Skills Council and might have limited tax-raising powers.

It is proposed that the city region board will consist of the leaders of the eight councils - Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Telford & Wrekin.

Sir Michael Lyons will give the conference his views on the future shape of local government in England.

Ms Manzie will explain how a city region would benefit the West Midlands.

Sir Digby Jones will give his views on what the regional economy and infrastructure needs.

Councillor Smith will explain how the surrounding shire authorities regard the prospect of a West Midlands city region.

Registration will start from 14.00 and the debate will be held from 14.30-16.30.

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