THE elected mayor of Copeland says a devolution deal is the only way forward for Cumbria – and is calling on the new councils to start negotiations.

It comes as Levelling Up Secretary Greg Clark signed an historic £540m devolution deal with York and North Yorkshire this week, which will grant more power to local communities there.

The deal will give a directly-elected mayor powers to drive the regeneration of the area and invest the money in key local priorities such as transport, education and housing.

Mike Starkie, elected mayor of Copeland, said: “My view is local government reorganisation won’t be complete until the devolution deal is signed and the mayoral authority is set up. When all those pieces are in the jigsaw that’s when we can really have lift-off.

“The entire focus now should be around negotiating a devolution deal. It provides the basis for further deals and the huge economic growth for places we’ve seen like Teesside.

“This is where the new councils should be focusing their attention. The priority is making sure we get the infrastructure and the finance to transform Cumbria. The only way we can do that is to have a mayoral combined authority.

“They have got to make it their number one priority to get these negotiations started and to get a deal on the table. We’ve got a template there with what they’ve got in Yorkshire of what is potentially available.

“I had already written to Michael Gove asking him to put a deal on the table and I’ll be following that up now with a letter to Greg Clark, congratulating him on the deal that they have put together for the Yorkshire authority and asking him to put something on the table to be considered by the Cumbrian councils.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “We want to see more areas with a high-profile, directly elected leader who will be accountable to local people and act as a champion for their areas. “We stand ready to work with local leaders in Cumbria on any potential devolution deals.”