HOPES are growing that Government moves to give cities more freedom will benefit York’s poorest citizens.

But York's Joseph Rowntree Trust chief executive Julia Unwin warned communities should prepare to seize the power – or risk swapping one group of bureaucrats for another.

Research by the trust and other organisations has already underlined the importance of larger communities to future prosperity.

The Government has already announced its City Deals proposals to let the UK's major population centres "off the Whitehall leash".

Ms Unwin, in an online blog, said: “There is widespread agreement that many of the challenges facing the UK, whether fiscal, environmental or demographic, have a local dimension and require a local response."

The effectiveness of local action had already been shown, both in emergencies - by the good neighbour spirit shown during flooding. - and planned campaigns, such as Yorkshire becoming dementia friendly, she added.

The Press has been running a Stamp Out Poverty campaign since December 2012, aiming to help local anti-poverty charities, raise awareness of poverty and to tackle the stigma around it.

City of York Council leader James Alexander said: “I have been asking the question who benefits from economic growth and the opportunities it presents for a long time.

“That is why in York we have adopted policies which provide support to those who most need it, from increasing the supply of more affordable housing to attracting new jobs.

“I’m also proud that York was the first council in the region to commit to and pay the Living Wage.

“City Deals are an important first step in giving cities greater powers to improve the lives of their residents through growing their economies.

“But this in itself is not enough and is where local councils become critical to ensuring partnership working and the allocation of resources are working best for those who aren’t, but who should be, enjoying the benefits of that growth.”

Ms Unwin added: “We know that huge economical potential currently lies untapped in the UK.. The City Deals recognise how well placed cities are to do this.

"A focus on cities and localism, however, must be about much more than devolving power from one group of anonymous officials in Whitehall, to another group of anonymous officials in the town hall. "Civic leaders need to be far sighted, and think about how they can hand over new powers to communities and neighbourhoods, as quickly as they receive them."