Carlisle could benefit from more powers in the post-Brexit political landscape, according a major network of city leaders.

National group Key Cities - which includes Carlisle - launched their new report yesterday calling on the government to grant them more powers.

Carlisle joined the group in August last year, joining cities like Wakefield, Southampton, Sunderland, Newport and Derby.

Key Cities, a partnership of 24 small and medium-sized cities spanning the length of England and Wales, argued in yesterday’s publication that with the extra powers they are seeking from the government, an extra £258bn could be generated in the national economy over the next 10 years.

The report was accompanied by comments made by Councillor Peter Box, leader of Wakefield Council and the chairman of the Key City Group.

He said that Brexit had dominated recent political debate, which had caused the problems faced by each of the Key Cities to be overlooked by government.

“There is only so much city leaders can do with the policy tools they currently possess,” Mr Box said. 

 “Mid-sized cities have significant growth potential, but are also home to some of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable communities,” he continued.

“In most Key Cities, pay is below the UK average, housing affordability is in decline and the proportion of children and young people with a mental health disorder is larger than the England average.

“Delivering growth, while ensuring that policy helps all residents, businesses and places to benefit from growth, is the overarching mission of mid-sized cities.”

The report called for devolution of powers from the government to each of its member local authorities.

One area of policy it called for more control over is apprenticeships. The apprenticeship levy - government money designed to top up the wages of apprentices, is at present returned to a central fund when underspent.

But the report called for underspend of the levy to be returned to the areas where it was raised, which could then be used to fund “pre-apprenticeship training courses to encourage take-up among harder-to-reach communities”.

In the longer term, the Key Cities would want to see the government grant a full devolution of the apprenticeship system to the local level, “as part of our efforts to develop a more integrated employment and skills system”.

The commissioning of Jobcentre Plus services was also a power the report called for to be devolved to each of its key cities. 

Identifying that it is the local authorities that have the in-depth contact with each person looking for work or long-term unemployed, the report argued that granting them further powers would help to create more “joined-up welfare programmes that take a more holistic approach to addressing the wider issues behind worklessness”.

Carlisle’s MP John Stevenson has long championed the benefits of devolution.

The idea behind devolution is that where appropriate, power is best wielded at the local level, where decision makers are as close as possible to the issues concerned.

Cumbria may be well placed to benefit from the devolution agenda in the coming years, with the Borderlands growth deal and the Northern Powerhouse initiatives both including Cumbria.

As the government’s appointed champion for the Borderlands growth deal and co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Northern Powerhouse, Mr Stevenson has often backed moves to deliver further power to regional bodies.

Following the release of the Key Cities report yesterday, Mr Stevenson was supportive of its central argument.

“Most economists say that the key to economic growth and prosperity is driven by cities,” Mr Stevenson said.

“Smaller cities such as Carlisle clearly have their place in the picture.

“Carlisle is a very good example of a smaller city which has the potential to drive the economic growth of the whole region.

“Devolving powers to those strategically important cities is in my view, a very positive idea, and one that I would strongly support.

“It very much fits in with the government’s view of the Borderlands and the Northern Powerhouse, in a sense that they see each region improve by drawing on their strengths.”