MINISTERS are being urged to 'prioritise' a Cheshire and Warrington devolution deal and 'settle' it before the end of the year.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) has authored a paper outlining what further devolution 'should look like' – and launched it at Crewe Engineering and Design UTC on Friday.

NPP vice-chairman Lord Jim O'Neill and Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry spoke at the cross-party event.

In January last year, Warrington Borough Council's (WBC) Labour group voted for the town to team up with Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire East Council in a deal – instead of the Liverpool City Region.

Council chief executive Steven Broomhead said: "We are awaiting further advice from the Government on devolution arrangements outside of the cities.

"We have been pressing Government for this information for the past three months.

"The three councils and the Local Enterprise Partnership remain enthusiastic about the prospect of devolution but require details of the Government's proposals."

If a deal is thrashed out, the three authorities could benefit from £30 million funding for at least five years, with funding thereafter due to be granted through public sector partners.

It would also have the potential to secure at least £30 million a year for 24 years.

And during a visit to the Peace Centre in February, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham said he believes a Cheshire and Warrington deal has the potential to unlock up to £700 million in extra funding over 30 years.

But uncertainty has surrounded the move following a lack of progress, with matters, including Brexit, halting talks between ministers and politicians in the area.

NPP director Henri Murison said: "Our devolution report, written by our vice-chair Lord Jim O'Neill, makes it clear that a devolution deal for Cheshire and Warrington should be a priority for Government.

"The leadership of the bid, the strength of the region in life sciences and energy in particular, and the ability to be the missing link between the devolved areas of Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester, are all compelling reasons why this deal should be settled in time for the Chancellor's autumn budget."

The Tatton Group is also backing plans for a deal, which would devolve powers to a new elected mayor.

Managing director Henry Brooks said: "Cheshire and Warrington is the gateway to the Northern Powerhouse – it is the glue that joins the great city regions of Manchester and Liverpool.

"As a successful northern economy, this is an opportunity to create even greater opportunities for current and future generations."

On Thursday, secretary of state for transport Chris Grayling and Network Rail's chief executive Mark Carne chose York to announce plans to make Britain's railways 'digital'.

They launched Network Rail's digital railway strategy and committed to ensuring all new trains and signalling 'are digital or digital-ready' from 2019.

Making the announcement, Mr Grayling confirmed he wants the country's first digitally controlled intercity railway to be the north's TransPennine route between Manchester and York.

The Government has earmarked £5 million for Network Rail to develop proposals for embedding digital technology between Manchester and York, as part of the £3 billion upgrade of the route starting next year.