THE DIRECTOR of an organisation set up to boost the local economy by investing in skills, innovation, transport and culture has reached out to the newly elected councillors in Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness to urge them to bring forward devolution negotiations in the coming weeks.

Henri Murison, from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, told councillors that the group have supported the move to unitary local government in the area for reasons of efficiency as well as the opportunity for stronger local leadership.

Writing, Mr Murison said: “There is now a chance to work alongside your neighbouring council to form a combined authority.

"This offers a bigger platform for local councillors and strengthens your ability to tackle some of the most serious economic challenges in the region, such as enhancing bus services through franchising, upgrading demand-responsive transport in rural areas or improving adult skills provision.

READ MORE: What's next for new authorities in Cumberland and Westmorland?

“The maximum powers and funding are only available for a devolution deal with a Directly Elected Mayor.

"As the Tees Valley has proven, a large urban metropolitan area is not a prerequisite, and the Mayoral model can prove hugely successful in areas where the economic geography is dominated by towns

“Locally led economic growth strategies to raise productivity in areas such as these are vital. The North of Tyne Combined Authority shares much of its geography with the Borderlands Growth Deal, which included Carlisle, parts of Scotland and rural Northumberland – and these places are already reaping the benefits.

“Devolution is flourishing in some places (South Yorkshire has just elected its second Metro Mayor) while stalling in others. It is not right that Cumbria should miss out on empowered local leadership - nor the government funding which goes hand in hand with it.

“Metro Mayors are needed for cities, towns, and rural areas alike if we are serious about building a truly productive, prosperous Northern Powerhouse.

“We ask you to take the pledge to work cross party with all your newly elected colleagues and neighbouring authority to back devolution with a Directly Elected Mayor. Businesses and voters alike are increasingly aware of what devolution means for their local communities – not least due to the huge amount of Government funding on offer.”

READ MORE: Allerdale's Andrew Seekings in line to be interim CEO for Cumberland 'shadow authority'