Politicians should be removed from Cumbria’s long-running devolution debate, the CBI has demanded.

The business organisation said it wants an impartial independent board to be created to decide any devolution deal for the county – completing side-lining any political input.

Devolving power would boost productivity and “reignite” Cumbria, said CBI deputy regional director for Cumbria and the North East, Alistair Westwood.

The demand is part of a wider call by the CBI – which represents around 190,000 businesses in the UK – for 60 per cent of England’s population to be covered by a devolution deal in the next five years.

It wants the Government to publish a framework which removes the involvement of politicians and simplifies the boundaries between combined authorities and local enterprise partnerships to meet the ambitious target.

The wrangle over a unitary authority structure – or devolution – in Cumbria has rumbled on for many years. Such a move could see the county’s existing seven councils reduce to just one or two and greater decision-making and spending powers handed down.

Business leaders in the county have also demanded action on the issue, along with organisations such as the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and the Power Up The North collaboration – which brings together Newsquest – owners of in-Cumbria – and rival publishers JPI Media and Reach.

The issue, however, appears to have been kicked into the long grass by the Government as it grapples with Brexit, according to South Lakeland Council chief executive Lawrence Conway in a recent update to councillors.

But patience is wearing thin, particularly in the North, were there is a concerted push for the region to have greater control over its destiny and close the economic and social North-South divide.

Mr Westwood said: “Now is time to work with business to set out plans to devolve powers and unlock regional growth.

“This change will turbo charge our economy and will ignite a new era of economic prosperity in Cumbria. Everyone knows that productivity is a key driver of wage growth and living standards, so addressing it must be a priority, from Whitehall to townhalls.

“Business is keen to unlock growth but wants to avoid future deals being influenced by politics. A clear framework where deals are assessed by an impartial independent board is sorely needed.

“We encourage Government to work with the business community to reduce local government complexity and kicking the politics out of decisions on devolution.”

The CBI believes devolving powers over decision-making, funding and delivery to local areas could give a leg up to regions, such as Cumbria, where there is “stagnating productivity”.

Closing the productivity gap between the best and worst performing regions could add more than £200 billion to the economy in the next decade, it claimed.

Last week the Chancellor Sajid Javid told the Conservative party conference that the Government was committed to giving more power to the regions “to drive investments in the infrastructure and services they know they need”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made similar pledges, and the Government is now bringing forward a White Paper on how it intends to hand down power.

However, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has bemoaned the lack of recent action on devolution – which also sees areas such as Cheshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire with little or no devolved control, and devolution deals for Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, Tees Valley, Sheffield City Region and North of Tyne all secured before previous Prime Minister Theresa May came into power in 2016.

Meanwhile, managing director of manufacturer Playdale Playgrounds and chair of the Cumbria branch of the Institute of Directors, Barry Leahey MBE was among the 100 business leaders to sign the ‘Devo 100’ letter sent to the Government in August, which calls for 100 per cent devolution across the entire Northern Powerhouse region.