Many of the UK’s poorest regions are set to lose almost £9bn in crucial EU grants after Brexit – funding which is allocated to help tackle poverty and encourage regional growth – a leading independent thinktank has warned.

An analysis of the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) reveals the amount in EU cash allocated to the some of poorest UK regions, or Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas, with those located in England receiving the lions-share of EU grants.

Regions in England receive almost £5.6 billion, Wales receives £1.9 billion, Scotland £720 million and Northern Ireland £414 million.

Vote Leave pledged to honor existing EU grants until 2020, but it is feared the next government may cut funding or remove support entirely under the guise of continued austerity.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has called on the government “to ensure allocated funding is not lost”, whilst also ensuring it has “a long-term plan in place to improve living standards in struggling areas”.

JRF say it is crucial for the UK Government to continue supporting the poorest regions, many of whom voted Brexit, or risk allowing them to fall even further behind more affluent areas.

The twelve regions which received the most EU funding in 2014 are as follows:

  1. London, £601 million
  2. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, £476 million
  3. North Eastern, £433 million
  4. Northern Ireland, £414 million
  5. Greater Manchester, £334 million
  6. Leeds City region, £314 million
  7. Lancashire receives £214 million
  8. Greater Birmingham and Solihull, £205 million
  9. Derby, Derbyshire and Nottingham, Nottinghamshire receives £197 million
  10. Liverpool, £178 million
  11. Sheffield City region, £167 million
  12. Tees Valley, £163 million

The findings closely mirror recent JRF research, which found that 10 of the 12 UK’s struggling cities are located in the so-called “Northern Powerhouse” and outside “Core Cities”.

Helen Barnard, head of analysis at JRF, said: “The referendum campaign and its aftermath has exposed the extent to which people in the poorest places feel shut out from the benefits of the country’s prosperity. These figures show the challenge in ensuring they do not fall further behind from lost EU funding after 2020.

“We urge the government to ensure allocated funding is not lost, but that it also has a long-term plan in place to improve living standards in struggling areas.

“This means working with town halls, LEPs and businesses to create more and better jobs across the country. Otherwise important initiatives like the Northern Powerhouse risk withering after Brexit.”

She added: “Brexit must be used to ensure we create an economy where prosperity is shared by all and no area is left behind.

“This means supporting the Northern Powerhouse and the core cities, but also the overlooked towns beyond them, which often miss out and need to see real improvements over the next few years.”