Council leaders across Cumbria have weighed in on a potential devolution deal for the county after the Government pledged to step up talks.

Regional growth minister Simon Clarke said yesterday that negotiations were moving "swiftly" after he met the leaders of Cumbria County Council and the district councils to discuss devolution last week.

And a number of the leaders felt there was now a drive to reach an agreement on the future of local government in the county, with Copeland Council elected mayor and vocal devolution advocate Mike Starkie declaring he was now "more confident than ever" a deal could be put in place by 2022.

"I always have felt that we needed devolved powers in Cumbria and to be able to shape our own

destiny," he said.

"This is going to be the only route to increase Government funding into Cumbria and give us a seat at the table."

John Mallinson, leader of Carlisle City Council, said there was "a lot of history" with attempts to push through devolution for the county but felt there was a "keenness" now to progress.

He said: "Devolution means extra money and powers but it is difficult to appraise what they would be because there are different offers up and down the country."

Mike Johnson, who is the acting leader of Allerdale Council, said the council would be actively engaging in discussions to do what was best for residents.

He said: "I believe that this is an opportunity for Allerdale and Cumbria to proactively start the discussions about how we can take further control of our futures and an opportunity to use this as a platform to recovery."

Eden Council leader Virginia Taylor questioned the timing of the move after local authorities had demonstrated their capability during the coronavirus pandemic.

She added: "From my point of view with a small, rural district, devolution is supposed to be bringing government down to the level closest to the people it affects.

"This doesn't seem to be devolution at all; it seems to be the reverse because it is imposing it down without asking us.

"I'm not saying that the situation at the moment is perfect but for a small district it has got a lot going for it in that we do speak for the people that live here."

Mr Clarke told an education, skills and employment event yesterday that negotiations were moving at pace on an agreement.

He said: “With the worst of the pandemic behind us, we are now moving swiftly in our negotiations with leaders in Cumbria to bring forward a devolution deal that will allow this thriving region to have further powers and level up its economy."