TODAY’S Budget is hugely significant, as it will be the last time it is delivered while the UK is still part of the European Union.

When Britain leaves in five months’ time, we will have an unprecedented opportunity to shake-up how funding is awarded to regions across the UK, free of European red tape.

The Government has already pledged to introduce a new £2.4bn funding stream, called the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, to replace the £25m we receive each year from the EU. Remember, this is British taxpayers’ cash recycled back to us, with a huge amount creamed off and with lots of strings attached.

This is a step in the right direction, but the question remains who will control this sum. Local people, or the Westminster bureaucracy? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if central government keeps this money in Treasury coffers and replaces the EU bureaucracy with its own, nobody will benefit.

To make sure our region’s voice was heard, last week I joined six other metro mayors from across England for a key summit in Bristol on this very topic.

This was important in and of itself. A couple of years ago, it would be unthinkable that someone fighting the corner would be able to shout about what the area needs and would be heard so clearly. Thanks to devolution, we’re invited into the room and we’re at the top table with London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. Not Newcastle or Leeds, but we in the Tees Valley.

At the summit, we urged the Government to show its true commitment to post-Brexit devolution and to fully devolve the Shared Prosperity Fund to the regions. This will mean that it can be better spent on the projects, schemes and initiatives that we consider a priority and that play to our strengths.

We are already delivering exciting projects that are essential to local growth. In February, the Northern Powerhouse Minister joined me in breaking ground on the new £22m National Horizons Centre in Darlington.

Today, there is a shining new building, which is getting ready to play home to the best and brightest of the biosciences sector, driving more jobs and wealth in the Tees Valley.

Another example of devolution working for us is that, last year, we were given £59m by the Government to improve local transport connectivity.

Other regions have had to go to the Government cap in hand for their share of the pie, but because we have a mayor, we were handed a huge chunk of cash to crack on with transformational projects to create the transport infrastructure our residents and local businesses deserve.

Using part of this fund, I will be taking a £25m case for the regeneration of Darlington station, and £20m case for Middlesbrough station, to my cabinet for approval. No delays or requests of central government – we can do it ourselves.

This is devolution in action. Local decisions by local people who know their area best. We can’t lose the momentum we’ve built up over the past couple of years, and that’s why it’s vital this Shared Prosperity Fund cash doesn’t end up stuck in Whitehall.

A devolved Shared Prosperity Fund would supercharge our ability to create jobs and maximise growth. After all, if this money was to stay in London, it would be shared, and for prosperity, in name only.