The formation of a coalition government back in 2010 marked an abrupt change in English regional development policy.

The key feature of this policy shift was the abolition of the English regional development agencies (RDAs) - with the exception of that in London.

In their place, 'Local Enterprise Partnerships' (LEPs) emerged operating at the sub-regional scale. In the West Midlands, for example, the RDA has been replaced with six LEPs.

Despite this language of 'localism', many of the powers held by English RDAs, for example, on industrial policy, inward investment, business support and other policy areas were initially recentralised to London.

Moreover, unlike RDAs, LEPs have had to operate without significant dedicated budgets until recently.

Another issue emerged around how better co-operation between LEPs could be encouraged and how stronger LEPs could be incentivised to co-operate with weaker LEPs.

The need for joint LEP working could also be evidenced in the need to develop regional data and intelligence, as for example happened with the 'old' West Midlands Regional Taskforce.

Overall, I'd still argue the old RDAs were often better positioned to make judgements about how best to offer support and to which clusters (and/or sectors) as they had a superior information base than central governments.

A key lesson of our work studying regional responses to the last recession is that there remains a role for regional level coordination of local (LEP) economic and cluster strategies, most obviously via some sort of intermediate tier infrastructure.

So news the West Midlands has finally got its act together to create a combined authority, Greater Manchester style, to drive the devolution of new powers and resources, has to be welcomed.

This is reinforced by news that local LEPs will join together to create a 'super LEP' for the region that reflects that of the combined authority.

The hope is the combined authority and super LEP can together become the "lynchpin" for economic recovery.

That might sound a bit over-hyped but, given the West Midlands region really is getting on with the heavy lifting of increasing output, exporting and creating jobs, the council and business leaders backing the idea actually have a pretty good point.

On the combined authority, what this means is council leaders from the four Black Country councils, Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry have made an agreement in principle to work together in a move which could pull in significant investment to create jobs and improve transport links.

The move comes as the three main political parties competed during the General Election to offer more funding and powers to cities and regions that form combined authorities.

Post election, the announcements over a combined authority (and matching super LEP) means the West Midlands will - finally - be able to take advantage of that opportunity along with other cities and regions.

It's a much needed move. As I've noted in previous blogs, before this all the combined authority action had been happening up North and the West Midlands was in serious danger of missing out on devolution.

This all became hugely pressing for the region after the report of the City Growth Commission last year - chaired by Jim O'Neill, now a government minister.

It nominated the existing five northern combined authorities as the first city regions to have devolved powers, thus leaving out the West Midlands.

That in turn led to Sandwell leader Coun Darren Cooper to throw down the gauntlet late last year to Birmingham in a 'put up or shut up' move.

He managed to bang heads together to finally make a combined authority a real goer. So hats off to him and other local authority leaders who have made this happen.

What's also impressive is Solihull and Coventry have indicated they will be joining in. This could create a 'super combined authority' that could cover an area comprising over three million people.

It could get us back to having some sort of regional body reflecting genuine functional economic space. That's critical. We need a genuinely regional scale to join up the work of fragmented LEPs in the region.

When it does, the lessons from the 'old' RDAs, both positive and negative, will need to be remembered.

Effective devolution needs an ability to join things up, to 'think regionally', and to have real control over policy areas like transport, regional economic development, health and welfare, the environment and tourism.

A West Midlands 'super combo' and super LEP could start to do just that. Whether or not the city region really needs a metro mayor is another matter, though.

Chancellor George Osborne, visiting Birmingham yesterday, again stressed the need for a West Midlands metro mayor as part of the package.

That may not be to the liking of the new combined authority which so far has opted for a more collaborative form of leadership than an elected metro mayor, with an envisaged executive board made up of local council leaders, LEP chairs and possibly representatives of voluntary groups and unions.

If Osborne really does believe in devolution, he should let the combined authority choose the model it thinks will best work locally, rather than imposing a metro mayor from above.

Professor David Bailey works at the Aston Business School