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Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and his fellow Northern Metro Mayors have written to the Government’s Chief Brexit Minister David Davis MP about the need for post- EU funding and powers to be devolved to the regions.

In an open letter published today, Andy Burnham of Greater Manchester, Steve Rotheram of Liverpool City Region and Ben Houchen of Tees Valley pressed for the same amount of cash from a proposed ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’ that will replace EU payments.

The EU provides Structural and Investment Funds to poorer areas are worth £25m a year to the Tees Valley. The mayors also pressed for powers repatriated from Europe to be devolved to the regions.

David Davis, the minister in charge of the UK government negotiations, met three northern mayors at a private meeting in York in October.

A passionate supporter of Brexit, Mr Houchen was one of the 64 percent of people in Tees Valley who voted for the UK to leave the EU in last year’s referendum.

Mr Houchen said: “Instead of taxing people, sending cash to Brussels, and then recycling it back to the Tees Valley, I want the Government to cut out the middle man and guarantee our £25 million a year post-Brexit.

“When we leave the EU, an enormous amount of power and money will be transferred back to the UK. This is what I campaigned for, and this is what we voted for. However what I don’t want is a Whitehall power grab.

“Everyone knows that the best people for local people will come from local people. I will fight to ensure our area is given more funding and the flexibility about how we deploy it.

“We’re at the top table, our voice is being heard, and I’m going to make the most of it as Mayor.”

The joint letter says: “The temptation for Whitehall will be to pass responsibility from Brussels to London, to impose national priorities and set up separate channels of accountability to civil servants and ministers.  This would be a missed opportunity.  The government’s vision for a modern Industrial Strategy is not capable of being delivered by Whitehall alone, but will necessitate co design and co delivery with functional city  regions,  through functional economies operating locally, contributing to the national economy through their distinctive local assets and opportunities.“

The letter adds: “As you made clear in our meeting, the overall level of funding will be a matter for future decisions by the UK government, rather than through negotiation with EU member states to which we make a net contribution.  We will, however, need to demonstrate that Brexit has been effectively managed in terms of investment in local communities.  This is best achieved through a commitment to at least match the levels of investment in individual areas that would otherwise have been secured from current UK and EU programmes.

“This commitment will ensure a focus on areas with the highest levels of social and economic need, which continue to be a high priority for government.  By delivering this investment through Mayoral Combined Authorities, where they exist, you can be assured that the focus will be on future economic opportunities and local business priorities”.

Mr Houchen added that at the recent meeting, Mr Davis had proposed regular meetings with the Northern Metro Mayors to discuss matters arising from the Brexit negotiations and the letter formed an important part of the dialogue.