Wednesday, February 10, 2021

News: Mixed reaction to Freeport bid


An ambitious bid for a new Freeport to make South Yorkshire the largest advanced manufacturing hub in Europe, putting the area at the heart of world-class innovation, has been launched.

Freeports are secure zones where business can be carried out inside a country's land border, but where different customs rules and other favourable arrangements apply, such as suspension of duties, simplified procedures and tax exemptions. The Government outlined plans to open up to ten in the UK.

The Freeport, backed by key industry figures and politicians, centres around Doncaster Sheffield Airport and the iPort logistics hub, also in Doncaster.

New modelling suggests a Freeport in South Yorkshire would create 28,700 new jobs, add £169m to the local economy every year and boost exports by £410m.

James Muir, Chair of the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “Establishing a freeport will build on our longstanding reputation for innovation and boost trade with our international partners.

“Our long-term Strategic Economic Plan sets out the road map to a stronger and more inclusive economy. A freeport would support these ambitions in creating more high-skilled jobs and training opportunities, attract further investment to our region and connect South Yorkshire the world.

“Our region is already home to world-leading research and innovation centres. A freeport would help our universities and businesses further explore opportunities in the areas South Yorkshire already has huge strength in, including aerospace and advanced manufacturing.”

Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University and board member of the LEP, raised issues over displacement at the recent meeting, adding that Freeports were the wrong way to stimulate economic growth and that far better approaches could be taken for economic development.

Backing the bid, Jon Ferriman, Managing Director of Liberty Steel UK, which has significant, growing operations in Rotherham, said: “The Freeport will allow us to grow our exports, supercharge innovation and build the businesses of the future. Our existing advanced manufacturing base of course already includes names like Sheffield Forgemasters, Liberty Steel and Boeing, but we have the potential to go so much further. We are determined more well paying jobs in advanced manufacturing come to South Yorkshire and the Freeport is the way to do it.”

At the LEP meeting, Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, queried the advantages of the potential different elements of having a South Yorkshire Freeport. Minutes show that "He was unsure whether it was pragmatic to submit a bid, due to the challenge for the SCR to establish the economic growth that was required. He did not wish to support the recommendations outlined within the report, although he appreciated that businesses were in favour of a South Yorkshire Freeport. He urged the Board to be cautious."



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