Low-tax freeport for South Yorkshire 'could create 29,000 new jobs'

A new low-tax freeport could make South Yorkshire the largest advanced manufacturing hub in Europe and put the area at the heart of world-class innovation, leaders claim.

South Yorkshire has launched a bid to host one of ten new freeports – where normal tax and customs rules do not apply – across the county.

It centres around Doncaster Sheffield Airport and the iPort logistics hub, major manufacturers including Sheffield Forgemasters and Liberty Steel and some 900 acres of land primed for development.

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Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis

Modelling by backers of the scheme suggests a freeport in South Yorkshire would create 28,700 new jobs and increase wages by at least 19 per cent due to a focus on advanced manufacturing.

It is also predicted that the scheme would add £169m to the South Yorkshire economy every year and transform the Sheffield City Region into a net exporter of goods by 2029.

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis said: “Establishing a freeport will help our region’s businesses and universities export ideas, goods and services across the world, supporting our ambitions for a new era of prosperity and a stronger, greener and fairer economy for South Yorkshire after the coronavirus pandemic.”

Jon Ferriman, Managing Director of Liberty Steel UK added: “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.”

Freeports are part of a Government strategy and Chancellor Rishi Sunak has put them at the heart of the levelling up agenda and his plans for post-Brexit Britain.

They are similar to free zones or ‘enterprise zones’, specifically targeted at those businesses who import, process and re-export goods.

Customs duty becomes payable only when the goods, possibly after processing, enter the domestic market. Other incentives on tax, planning and reduced red tape may also be available.

Among the around 30 other areas bidding for freeport status are the Humber and the Tees Valley.

North Yorkshire MP Mr Sunak said recently: “Our new freeports will create national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, levelling up communities across the UK, creating new jobs, and turbo-charging our economic recovery.”

There are more than 70 freeports in the European Union and freeports existed in the UK before 2012, according to the House of Commons library.

Supporters of freeports argue that their effectiveness is reduced by EU rules on state aid and that leaving the EU means freeports will be able to provide greater opportunities for the UK.