Leaders from across the country have joined forces to call on the government to recognise and address regional inequality.

Durham County Council has signed a joint statement that has been sent to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government calling for a guarantee that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is the proposed new fund set to replace economic aid from the European Union, will not leave some regions worse off in terms of funding for development in 2020 if the UK leaves the European Union.

The joint statement issued is asking for a consultation on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to urgently address growing regional inequality by making sure the fund is adequately funded and appropriately devolved.

New research from CPMR suggests that regions in the UK would receive €13 billion under the future EU Cohesion programme, if it were to remain a part of the European Union. This 22 per cent increase from the current 2014-2020 programme was caused by many areas in the UK falling behind the EU average in terms of regional prosperity.

This would mean that County Durham would have benefited from increased funding to support its local economy, potentially receiving an allocation from the next programme of around €300m. This funding would have been used to increase employment opportunities, helping people get better skills and jobs, as well as investing in businesses, innovation and research and low carbon activities.

The council has joined others from five regions that currently classify as ‘less developed’. This includes Tees Valley and Durham, South Yorkshire, East London, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, and West Wales and the Valleys.

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “It is vital that we ensure areas like ours here in County Durham, get their fair share of future regeneration funding from the Government.

“It’s unacceptable that areas of the UK are falling behind and inequality in regional economies is widening. By coming together with other regions like ours, we are sending a clear message to Government that this needs to be addressed urgently and fairly, to ensure that County Durham receives adequate funding to support its economic growth.”

Cllr Adam Paynter, Leader of Cornwall Council, said: “We need an ambitious regional policy and an adequately funded UK Shared Prosperity Fund to ensure that all regions across the UK prosper. Particular attention needs to be given to those regions most in need. We need to revive the devolution agenda and ensure that funds and decision-making is returned to the regions so we can ensure a better future for all people living within our regions.

“By coming together as regions from across the UK – some of us rural, some urban, but all faced with the significant challenge of being a less developed region – we are sending a strong signal to government that a new approach to regional policy is needed”