Metro mayors lobby to ‘take back control’ over EU funding replacement cash

Four of England’s directly elected metro mayors have united to demand spending control of the regional funding that will replace EU structural funding after Brexit.

In a joint statement to the Financial Times, the four northern mayors echoed the Vote Leave campaign slogan saying they wanted to “take back control” by receiving fully devolved spending authority over the replacement funding.

Labour’s Andy Burnham of Greater Manchester, Steve Rotherham of Liverpool City Region, Dan Jarvis of Sheffield City Region and Conservative’s Ben Houchen of Tees Valley are the four mayors to have joined forces to lobby the government.

In their 2017 manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to create a UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) in order to replace the EU structural funds given to the UK to be spent on deprived areas.

The EU money is worth around £2.4bn a year and the government has said that it will match it, but has not yet given details of how the SPF will work.

At the moment, the EU currently provides annual funding of £50m to Greater Manchester, £32m to Liverpool, £30m to Sheffield and £25m to Tees Valley.

In the four mayors’ joint statement, they said: “More than two years since the Brexit referendum, the defining mantra of that campaign — to take back control — looms large as we approach March 2019.

“If that phrase is to mean anything, it must mean substantial devolution of power and resources out of Westminster to the English regions.”

They say that the UK’s employment rate has recently hit record highs and city centres are thriving, but some places “remain locked out of this success story.”

“This underlines the need for areas to be given more control of the tools to unlock inclusive economic growth in their communities.

“Ministers have promised a consultation on the shared prosperity fund this year and this is becoming urgent if we are not to be left with a damaging gap between the ending of EU structural funds and the setting up of the shared prosperity fund – a gap which would lead to the closure of vital economic programmes and investments.”

The four mayors released the statement alongside the Northern Powerhouse, the People’s Powerhouse and the NP11 Board, which represents the north’s 11 local enterprise partnerships.

Ben Houchen said: “What I don’t want is another Whitehall power grab. Post-Brexit, we need to ensure that EU funding comes directly back to metro mayors so we can direct investment most effectively to meet the needs of local people and local businesses.

“If the people of the Tees Valley can’t fill the jobs which we create the places they live won’t benefit – then the full benefits of economic resurgence will be lost to those who most need them.”

Back in July, local government leaders called for a consultation on the post-Brexit funding but welcomed the government’s Brexit white paper.

Burnham told the housing, communities and local government committee earlier this year that further devolution was needed for a smooth Brexit to be a reality.

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