Metro mayors and business leaders from across the north are calling on the government to give the region control over a pot of money which will replace European funding post-Brexit.
The mayors of Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley and Sheffield City Region, alongside the NP11 Board, which represents the north’s 11 local enterprise partnerships, thinktank Northern Powerhouse Partnership and grassroots movement People’s Powerhouse said the government must fully fund and devolve the UK Shared Prosperity Fund so they can help rebalance the economy.
In its 2017 manifesto, the Conservative party promised to initiate a UK Shared Prosperity Fund with money repatriated from the EU to support towns and cities. The money – known as EU structural funds - has been committed until the end of 2020 and is currently worth £2.4bn a year in EU and national match funding.
In July, a written ministerial statement said a consultation on the new shared prosperity fund would be launched “later this year”, with details of its operation and priorities due in next year’s spending review.
The mayors of Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and Sheffield City Region, Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram and Dan Jarvis (all Lab) respectively, 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.
“The UK’s employment rate has recently hit record highs and many of our city centres are thriving hubs of commerce and culture. 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.”
Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen (Con) added: “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.”
Roger Marsh, chair of the NP11 and Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The creation of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is an opportunity to create a funding mechanism that supports and accelerates the work already underway to create faster growth which benefits our regions and the UK as a whole. We want to work with the government to ensure the fund is designed in a way that supports locally-determined plans and priorities, is straightforward to administer and is in place to ensure a smooth transition from European funding.”