Free ports risk being “killed” by Treasury officials
Ministers were in talks with the Scottish and Welsh administrations over the creation of free ports in decentralized countries, amid resistance from Labor and the SNP.
But Richard Ballantyne, managing director of the British Ports Association, who served on the government’s free ports advisory group, said: “We have around 140 sites across the country that handle freight. If the government agrees with this policy, why is it limited to eight now and maybe two or three more?
“I think there are reservations in some parts of government about the loss of tax revenue that these areas can create and there are understandable concerns that they might just spur movement and business transfer instead. new investments. But these ports compete on an international level with European ports. “
Mr. Ballantyne said he was “disappointed” with the planning flexibilities offered to free ports.
Significant changes to allow port operators or investors to build new infrastructure more quickly “have not really materialized,” he said.
He gave the example of a port operator or an investor who wanted to build new facilities to equip or maintain wind turbines for offshore wind farms.
Given the competition offered by mainland ports that already have such facilities, “if you want to respond to these opportunities quickly, you don’t want to go through a convoluted planning process,” Ballantyne said.
Treasury officials accused of making a “zero-sum game”
A senior Conservative official added: “For the Treasury everything is a zero-sum game: one party wins and therefore another must lose. It is a misunderstanding of the dynamics of the economy.
The source added: “Whatever works for officials will become government policy because ministers either do nothing or get stuck or delayed and officials know there will be another reshuffle within 18 months so that ‘they can just wait for any minister who is trying to push for something. “
In a 2016 article written for the Center for Policy Studies think tank, Sunak pointed out that the UK “contains dozens of thriving large ports” and said free ports could create up to 86,000 jobs for the UK economy.
He said, “China’s special economic zones are areas with lower taxes, less regulation, and easier planning processes than the national economy. Local property taxes, corporate taxes and labor taxes have all been lowered, as well as tariffs, Direct Investment (FDI). The program is 40 years old; the zones account for 20 percent of China’s GDP, 30 million jobs and about half of all FDI.
The Telegraph has contacted the Treasury for comment.