THE leader of Worcester City Council has revealed how talks are ongoing over a powerful 'combined authority' for Worcestershire - signalling the biggest potential change in local government for decades.

Councillor Simon Geraghty says "a watching brief" is being kept over the gathering momentum across the country for new, powerful bodies being set up to grab extra powers and cash from Whitehall.

Your Worcester News exclusively revealed in January how Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader of Worcestershire County Council, wanted to kick-start negotiations over a new "vehicle" able to take extra responsibility and influence in areas like transport, roads and skills development.

The combined authority would be an 'over-arching' body with input from all Worcestershire's councils, and would compliment the existing two-tier structure instead of replacing it.

The aftermath of the Scottish 'no' vote in the referendum has left Prime Minister David Cameron considering greater devolution of powers to local areas.

It is certain to go further whichever party forms the next Government, and since early spring the various council leaders in Worcestershire have been meeting privately to explore the county's response.

We also reported a few weeks go how Labour's Hilary Benn urged Worcestershire's councils to go for it over progressing the talks.

During a full city council meeting last night, deputy Labour group leader Councillor Geoff Williams raised concerns over it, saying there are "two issues, one of sovereignty and the other is accountability".

He mentioned that Worcestershire's talks got a mention in the Local Government Chronicle magazine recently, which followed our January exclusive.

Cllr Geraghty said: "It's a good question, so far we've asked for a piece of work to be done about what other counties are doing.

"The current aspect of the work is 'how strong is the county's case', if I can put it like that.

"I can't give you any assurances about something we haven't signed up to yet, but we are keeping a watching brief on the situation."

He also said the "key thing" about the exploratory work is "what we want to achieve that we can't already do through existing structures".

Cllr Geraghty then said it was too early to assess whether it will go ahead or not, with the talks due to rumble on well past the General Election.

In November Greater Manchester stole a march on the rest of the UK by sealing a £1 billion devolution deal with central Government, with powers handed down for transport and skills budgets including the famous tram network, which is being extended.

Birmingham and the Black Country have also agreed to form a new combined authority.