Establishing a “future leaders board” of young people and pushing for more equal representation of the sexes are just two of the priorities for Cumbria’s Local Enterprise Partnership in the coming months.

They were among a plethora of issues discussed at the LEP’s annual general meeting which took place at its offices in Redhills, near Penrith, on Friday.

Over 50 people attended the event, which heard from members of the organisation’s board on its work in the last year and plans for the future.

Chair Lord Richard Inglewood said it was the body’s ambition to become the best, or “on a par with the best”, LEP’s in the country.

“Our economy is different and our skills are different and our resources our different, but what we want to do is become one of the best,” he said.

“Immediately in front of us is the great challenge of Brexit. Independent research suggests there are a number of serious challenges facing us.

“Because of that we have got to be alert. The reason we exist is to help people and business organisations in this country. We are here to try and help if called on.”

Chief executive Jo Lappin added that one significant development on the horizon was the Government’s feedback on the LEP’s draft Local Industrial Strategy, which it submitted on March 29.

The draft strategy is currently in the “co-production” stage being analysed by the Government’s Local Industrial Strategy Analytical Panel.

The strategy will be used by the LEP to guide its priorities for work to boost the county’s economy between now and 2030.

A revised version of the strategy is expected to be published this autumn.

Andrew Wren, principal and chief executive of Furness College, in Barrow, who is the LEP’s board’s “diversity champion” said it had voted to officially set up a future leaders panel.

“We are looking for a board that will work alongside the main board that will be made up of young people from 18 to 35,” he said.

“They will work alongside the main LEP board and make sure that young people are represented. We will be publicising how to become one of those young board members shortly.”

The aim was to have it up and running by the New Year, he said.

At the same time, the board was hoping to have an equal number of men and women by 2023, he said. Currently 33 per cent of its members are female.

The various board members gave a summary of its work over the last year.

Mike Smith, chair of its people, employment and skills group, said the Cumbria Careers Hub, which was set up in January, had so far performed better than average compared to others in the country when measured against standards set for the organisations.

The hub is one of 20 hubs being trialled in the UK and is made up of a group 40 local schools and colleges, together with universities, training providers, employers and career professionals.

Dr Steve Curl, who is the lead on transport and infrastructure, said major achievements by the board included the £4.95m it put towards the development of Carlisle Airport.

He said the LEP had also contributed 10 per cent of £8.35m of funding for Network Rail to develop an outline business case for upgrades on the Cumbrian coastal railway.

The LEP was also considering ways it could help maximise the potential of Cumbria’s ports, he said.