City region presses ahead with bid for freeport status

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Liverpool City Region is to bid to operate a freeport under Government plans to create 10 sites around the country as part of a drive to stimulate Britain’s post-Brexit growth.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the initiative early last year and said: “Our new freeports will create national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, regenerating communities across the UK and supporting jobs.

“They will attract investment from around the world as we embrace new opportunities following our departure from the EU and will be a key driver for economic recovery as we build back better post coronavirus.”

Freeports will offer tax reliefs on investment by businesses within freeport tax sites, and will allow firms to import goods into a freeport without paying tariffs, process them into a final good and then either pay a tariff on goods sold into the domestic market, or export the final goods without paying UK tariffs.

It has been estimated that a freeport for Liverpool could add an extra £739m to the region’s economy every year and could lead to the creation of 12,000 jobs.

At today’s (January 22) combined authority meeting, councillors rubber stamped the proposal, apart from Labour councillor Ian Maher, leader of Sefton Council, who objected on the grounds of the potential impact on air quality and congestion in the South Sefton region should a bid be successful.

They were told that the scheme would offer a national hub for global trade and investment in the city region, promote regeneration, economic growth and job creation, and facilitate sustained innovation.

An LCR Freeport would support business, employment, training, business investment, foreign direct investment, innovation and economic growth.

Core sectors for an LCR Freeport would be automotive, biomanufacturing and chemicals, which are strong features of the region’s economy.

It is proposed that freeport management teams could be located in a new Freeport Management Centre, with three separate Freeport Tax Sites at Wirral Waters, Parkside in St Helens, and the 3MG multimodal facility at Widnes.

The combined authority has been working with a wide range of public and private partners, including Peel Ports, as well as logistics, freight and manufacturing companies, FE colleges and universities, to take the bid process forward.

It will learn whether it has been successful in its bid at the time of the March Budget. If so, it said it will move forward to the next stage of developing a freeport with the Government. All freeports are expected to be established by the end of the year.

Liverpool was previously the site of a freeport, at Seaforth Docks, between 1984 and 2012, when the legal status of freeports expired.

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