A LABOUR Government would 'back Cumbria' if it wins the next general election, according to a former leader of the party.

Ed Miliband, who is the shadow secretary of state for energy security and net zero, was speaking at the first Cumberland Economic Summit which was held at the Civic Centre in Carlisle yesterday (Friday, February 29).

In his keynote speech he said: "That’s why I can announce that Cumbria will be eligible to benefit from our British Jobs Bonus, a £1.5billion fund to reward companies that invest in clean energy projects.

"Britain has succeeded in generating large amounts of offshore wind, but it has failed to generate the jobs to go with it.

"Our British Jobs Bonus will incentivise companies to procure from and build supply chains for clean industries in communities like Cumbria, bringing the good, secure jobs that are so desperately needed."

He said the initiative was the first time in decades that Britain would have a fund like this and it was modelled on the US Inflation Reduction Act.

In addition, he said that the Port of Workington could be developed because they would set aside £1.8billion in a new 'ports fund' to upgrade ports so wind turbines could be manufactured in Britain, rather than towing them in from overseas.

He added: "I believe from my discussions with Mark [Fryer] and with Josh [MacAlister] over the last 18 months that the Port of Workington is an ideal candidate for this public investment.

"Owned by the council, which has a vision for its future.

"Investment could unlock more capacity at the port and support regeneration of the area, enabling it to reap the benefits of jobs in the clean energy industry, like offshore wind.

"But we will only make, buy and sell in Britain, if we drive forward with all forms of clean energy."

He described councillor Mark Fryer, the leader of Cumberland Council, as "such a committed advocate for Cumbria".

Cllr Fryer said the announcements from Mr Miliband were really positive and added: "It's about bringing people together right across the whole of Cumberland, the business leaders, the council as a community leader and other organisations to seize the opportunities that there are out there and working together across political boundaries because it has held us back.

"The idea that we have got one council is it should be more streamlined, more cordial and a lot better than it has previously been, so I am looking to the summit."

When asked if it was a coup to get the shadow energy secretary to Carlisle he said: "This is Cumberland - they should all be wanting to come here.

"He is positive about the whole of Cumberland, I've been speaking with him now for probably 18 months about that approach, about the green energy power and green jobs, we've had them promised to us before and all the political parties of both colours have not come up with them, so it is up to us as the leaders in Cumberland to hold everyone to account really."

Carlisle MP John Stevenson was also in attendance and said: "I congratulate the council on their initiative in the first place because I think it is a very good one because if you are to have a successful locality you need a successful economy and I think that is what this is about.

"What I would like to see we get out of today is to recognise what is being done already, what is actually happening around here because we nearly have half a billion pounds worth of public sector investment coming into Carlisle and the region which is fantastic - but how do we build upon that, how do we attract the private sector in, which is critical."

Councillor Chris Wills (Upperby, Lib Dems) said the summmit was "critically important”, because they were in the early days of a new council, and added: "We are just about to put together an economic strategy that will influence the lives of everybody who lives and works in the authority."

When asked about getting Mr Miliband as the keynote speaker he said: "I am a Lib Dem but I have got a lot of respect for Ed. I wonder if he will be talking about the somewhat backtracking of Labour with their intention to invest in a green economy. It will be interesting to hear if he's got any comments on that.

"I think we do need this kind of investment. It is investment - if we look at this as just borrowing and adding to debt, that is a mistake."

Councillor Jill Perry (Bothel and Wharrels, Green Party) said she felt the priorities of the summit should be investment in green infrastructure and added: "What I'd like to see is more emphasis on renewables and less emphasis on nuclear, which clearly isn't clean because of all the waste that is produced."

She said there should also be more emphasis on green infrastructure and developing low carbon house building.

Andrew Seekings, Cumberland Council’s chief executive, said: "I think the most important thing is to get lots of people together to talk about some of the opportunities that we have got moving forward.

"For the council it is really important that growth that we get is inclusive growth, We have got lots of opportunities around the county and wider into Cumbria to work with Westmorland & Furness to really get a strategic plan together that can create growth and good wages for people here."