DUDLEY is set for a year of celebrations after civic leaders officially declared the borough the capital of the Black Country.

Council chiefs say the borough of Dudley has traditionally been regarded as the centre of the region and now is the time to formally recognise its status.

A year of events to celebrate the declaration was kicked off by the raising of the Black Country flag at Dudley Town Hall on Tuesday (January 21).

The Black Country also now has its own national day, on July 14, which has been formally registered to commemorate the anniversary of the invention of the world’s first steam engine in Dudley in 1712.

Councillor David Sparks, leader of Dudley Council, said: “Cornwall has a flag, Wales has a dragon, Scotland has its referendum and now we can proclaim that we are also a special place with a special culture.

“As the capital of the Black Country I hope Dudley borough people and organisations will show off the flag with great pride not only on July 14 but all year round.”

Councillor Pete Lowe, deputy leader of Dudley Council, said: “All of us living and working in the area have plenty to be proud of and as the capital of the Black Country here in Dudley we are determined to ensure we celebrate who and what we are.”

Neighbouring Black Country council leaders were also quick to fly the flag for the region as a whole – while avoiding heaping praise on Dudley’s new found capital status.

Councillor Darren Cooper, leader of Sandwell Council, said: "We would not like to get involved with a parochial disagreement with our neighbouring authority, but I would like to point out that Sandwell people have made an incredible contribution to the area's contribution to Britain's successes down the years.

"The areas's historical heritage is embedded throughout the borough and in Smethwick alone we can boast the world-famous work of Watt, Murdock and Boulton.

"In addition I would like to point out that the population of Sandwell is far higher than any of the other boroughs in the Black Country."

Councillor Roger Lawrence, leader of Wolverhampton City Council, said: “I am sure that the Association of Black Country Authorities would support a Black Country Day and the flying of the Black Country flag, not only in recognition of the enormous contribution the Black Country has made, and continues to make, to our nation over the years, but also to mark the continued success of the four Black Country boroughs working together in partnership.”