Could Kingston become the first local authority to secede from Whitehall and declare itself independent?

Talks have been underway for six months on plans for the borough to lead the way and free itself from budget restrictions imposed by the coalition government's austerity.

Kingston Council leader Kevin Davis said he wanted to end reliance on an ever-shrinking yearly grant, and keep a greater proportion of business rates instead.

Eventually, he hopes, all revenue will stay in Kingston.

Coun Davis said: "I sit around every year, as every councillor does, waiting to see if they're going to hand it out to us or not.

"Nobody loses. Exactly the same amount of money would go back to central government. If we attract more businesses we will get more business rates, retain more business rates and the amount of money will go up.

"The only time we would potentially have a problem is if the economy went pear-shaped and business collapsed all around us - but actually, we would have that problem anyway."

The talks have been held in an atmosphere of increasing desire for devolution among cities and councils in the UK.

Later this month council leaders in east London will meet to discuss taking control of transport, business growth and more.

Business lobbying group London First advocates devolution for the capital, which it has said would allow the city to make "long-term investments in infrastructure".

Opposition leader Coun Liz Green called the plan "an excellent idea for Kingston" but said she thought government would be unable to resist taking a slice of any extra business rate revenue the borough generated.

She said: "I think government would look at it in the future and see Kingston as it has in the past, as a little bit of a cash cow.

"Government seems to think we have enough money. I don't agree."

Labour group leader Linsey Cottington said: "It certainly would be reasonable for the council to pursue this, just to see if there's any possibility. I don't think it's going to work because the government won't let it."

Negotiations with the Department for Communities and Local Goverment were held at the same time as talks with Richmond Council, designed to save £8m a year by merging back-room staff.

Those talks stalled after the authorities could not agree on how councillors' voting decisions would be implemented.