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Mayor calls for fair deal to replace EU fund

Middlesbrough Mayor Dave Budd has called on the Government to ensure fair funding for Middlesbrough and the Tees Valley in the wake of Brexit.
His call echoes the findings of a new report by the influential Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) exploring the impact of the end of key EU investment.
The research highlights the need for a suitable, targeted replacement for the existing £2.4 billion EU Structural Fund that supports social and economic development.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is urging the Government to ensure its proposed replacement – the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – is similarly resourced, and with a multi-year commitment to enable long-term planning.
That’s a view shared by Mayor Budd who said it was vital for the Tees Valley’s long-term prosperity that its particular circumstances are taken into consideration.
The JRF report points to the Structural Fund’s 40-year legacy of providing ‘targeted support to less prosperous places, helping them to realise their contribution to national growth’.
The Tees Valley is the second highest UK recipient of European funding, with the Conservatives making a 2017 manifesto commitment to establish a successor fund that would ‘reduce inequalities between communities across our four nations’.
Middlesbrough also features eighth in a list of local authorities with the lowest combinations of pay and employment rates – areas the JRF says should be priorities for the Shared Prosperity Fund.
Welcoming the new report, Middlesbrough Mayor Dave Budd urged the Government to make a firm commitment to future funding.
He said: “Middlesbrough and the wider Tees Valley have made great strides in recent years, and it’s vital that we continue to build on those achievements.
“The progress we’ve made has partly been possible because of funding that acknowledges the long-term disparity between our most deprived wards and more affluent areas elsewhere in the country.
“We have been seeking clarity since the Brexit referendum result, and this timely report puts further pressure on the Government to honour the commitment it made in 2017.
“After more than two years we need answers – but all we hear is the daily squabbling between ministers and vague notions of a post Brexit country.
“Here in the real world beyond Westminster we deserve better.”
Claire Ainsley, Executive Director of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “As a society, we believe everyone should be able to reach a decent standard of living, no matter where they live.
“But far too many families and places are being locked out and left behind. 
“In response to the discontent expressed in the EU referendum vote, the Prime Minister promised to build a country that works for everyone.
“The Shared Prosperity Fund would help deliver on this commitment.
“But families cannot afford to wait until the Spending Review, as many see their prospects deteriorating in towns and cities where jobs and wages for the worst-off are falling further behind the rest of the country
“Ten years on from the financial crisis, this underlines why we need to rebalance our lopsided economy. 
“As we leave the EU, we have an opportunity to change how our economy works and offer a new deal that delivers good jobs and higher earnings across the country.”