Plymouth has been announced as one of eight Freeport locations across England.
In a Budget speech Chancellor Rishi Sunak said Freeports were designed to help the UK respond to the ‘extraordinary economic situation’ arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Plymouth and South Devon’ has been selected as a Freeport alongside locations in Liverpool, Essex, the Solent, East Midlands, Felixstowe, Humber and Teesside.
The introduction of Freeports was designed to attract investment and trade, Sunak said, while also creating jobs.
Regarding the decision, Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s council member for economy said: “I am delighted that the Government has approved the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport.
‘The county council was pleased to join this bid along with Plymouth City Council and South Hams District Council and it will provide a multi-million pound boost to economic recovery.
‘With the success of the vaccination programme and the Chancellor’s support for Devon’s vital tourism and hospitality businesses, it is really important that we join together to drive economic recovery.
‘The Freeport will help level up the regional economy and provide good jobs for local people as well as welcome apprentice opportunities for our young people.”
Plymouth City Council says up to 1,000 jobs will be created in the first two years of the Freeport and up to 9,000 over the next ten years, as well as 50 new apprenticeships and 10 internships every year by 2027.
However, some have raised their concerns of the implications of this decision. Prof Catherine Barnard, an expert on the issue, wrote a report for the think tank, UK in a Changing Europe, and said while it was ‘very good news for Plymouth’ in terms of attracting business, enterprise and creating jobs, evidence from abroad shows that surrounding areas
“Freeports operate a bit like a big vacuum cleaner and they suck in business from the surrounding area,” she said.
In her report, she argues that if lowering the level of tariffs or regulation is justifiable, ‘they should be lowered for the whole country’.