The 2021 Budget saw the announcement of eight new Freeport locations across the United Kingdom, with AMION supporting Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to develop their successful bid. More recently, our team have been advising on the development of Business Cases for their Freeport proposals. This article delves into the nature of the Government’s flagship Freeport programme and the latest developments.
What are Freeports?
Freeports are secure Customs Zones where business can be carried out within a country’s land border albeit with different customs rules. Businesses located within the Freeport Zone can benefit from reduced administrative burdens and tariff controls, relief from duties and import taxes, and eased tax and planning regulations. The UK’s Freeport model aims to achieve the following three objectives:
From Expression of Interest to Business Case
In the midst of the second Covid-19 lockdown in November 2020, bidding coalitions across the country were invited to submit proposals demonstrating their suitability for Freeport status. The bidders were required to answer a series of questions related to defining the extent of the Freeport including the outer boundary and tax and customs site geographies. Proposals for the implementation and delivery of the Freeport were also developed. AMION was engaged with a consortium of partners in the LCR – including LCR CA, its constituent local authorities, industry bodies, further education providers and the wider local business base – to develop their Freeport bid. It was estimated that the LCR Freeport could contribute around £850 million GVA and create 14,000 jobs, as well as leading on solutions to meet net zero targets.
Following the announcement of the eight successful bidders in March, including LCR CA, the bidding coalitions have been required to expand proposals further through the production of Business Cases. Business Cases are used extensively in the public sector to seek approval for new initiatives and spending decisions and are governed by HM Treasury’s Green Book. The purpose of Business Cases is to confirm the strategic context of proposals; to make a robust case for change; to assess a range of potential options as to the best way forward; and consider the deliverability and viability of these options. Business Cases are typically prepared in stages according to how far project proposals have been advanced. To date, Outline Business Cases have been prepared for the Freeports, with more advanced Full Business Cases pending.
AMION have advised LCR CA and Thurrock Council on the development of their Freeport Outline Business Cases. We have been able to add value particularly through developing the ‘Economic Case’ and a cost-benefit analysis model, which ensures that the intervention will provide value for money.
The bidding coalitions will now be looking to develop Full Business Cases for their Freeport proposals. The Freeport Bidding Prospectus has outlined that, depending on the content of the Outline Business Cases, Full Business Cases will be either assured locally or by central government. Provided assurance is successful, a Section 31 grant will be made to the supporting local authority and necessary legislative changes will be made, allowing the Freeport benefits to then materialise.
For further information, please contact Tim Johnston (email@example.com) or Peter Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) at AMION.