Our LEP has been spending its effort in backing a “Freeport” bid centred on Bridgewater, did we know?
“Freeport aims to bring innovation and jobs to Somerset – Heart of the south west LEP”
But yesterday the Government chose Plymouth instead.
“Somerset has a key role to play in the bid to develop a new Great Western Freeport – a project which could create thousands of jobs and boost the region’s reputation as a leader in high-value design and innovation…….
…..Karl Tucker, Chairman of Heart of the South West LEP, said: “We are delighted to have worked in partnership with public and private sector partners to submit this bid to government for a Great Western Freeport, which will deliver thousands of jobs and support businesses and their supply chains both within and well beyond its boundaries across the region.
“It would create significant potential for the Gravity site near Bridgwater and the Freeport would become a national hub for green manufacturing and trade, building on the wider South West’s key strengths and helping to deliver clean and inclusive economic growth for our region.“
The submitted bid has been put together by the combined authority working with public and private sector partners, including large-scale businesses across the aerospace and nuclear sector, the region’s universities and colleges, innovation centres, local authorities and business networks.”
Free ports – or sleaze ports? Opinion divided.
Proponents say free ports can attract investment to areas that have been left woefully short, bringing jobs and prosperity to deprived regions as part of the “levelling up” agenda, helping prioritise greener industry, and breathing new life into, say, the former Redcar steelworks site, or the Grimsby docks.
But others fear the move signals the creation of “mini-tax havens” and a race to the bottom on regulation, keeping revenues from councils and the Treasury to line the pockets of business and landowners, with profits sent offshore rather than reinvested in the UK.
Support is found predominantly among those who voted – and campaigned – to leave the EU; backers call it a Brexit dividend enabled by the final deal. The EU has started to clamp down on the 80-odd free zones within its jurisdiction, over tax evasion, corruption and crime concerns.