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Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen today (March 19) made the call for greater devolution before the House of Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee.

At the committee’s evidence session into Brexit and Local Government today, Mayor Houchen joined Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer, and London Assembly member Len Duvall, to discuss the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on local areas.

Giving evidence at Manchester University, Mayor Houchen called for more directly devolved cash to replace European funding after Britain leaves the EU and also warned against a “Whitehall power grab”.

Mayor Houchen said: “As one of the 64% of people in our region that voted to leave the European Union, I am determined to ensure our voice is heard at the negotiating table.

“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. Powers that flow back to London need to be distributed back to regions like ours.”

Mayor Houchen told the Committee of MPs that the Government’s plan for a “Shared Prosperity Fund”, replacing EU funding, should be given as single pots of cash directly to regions like the Tees Valley, so we could use the money as we wish.

When asked about the advantages of a Free Port in Tees Valley, Mayor Houchen said it would create a “massive step-change” for our area, reshore manufacturing jobs and create thousands more.

Free Ports provide special freedoms to trade, within a specific area around a major port. Such a status supports the expansion of international trade, attracting jobs and investment, by offering exemptions from certain operational, regulatory and customs requirements.

Mayor Houchen added: “Being included in these talks alongside major players such as Manchester and London once again shows that that our region has a voice at the top table.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get. I once again made clear what we need from Government to really take advantage of everything available to us after Brexit. I will continue to work to deliver on these opportunities.”