Agenda item

LCR Freeport Full Business Case

To consider the report of the Executive Director of Corporate Services and the Portfolio Holder for Business Support.

 

To be presented by John Fogarty and Asif Hamid MBE.

 

The appendix to this report will be considered in public and press excluded session.

Minutes:

The LCR Combined Authority considered a report of the Portfolio Holder for Business Support and the Executive Director of Corporate Services which sought approval of the LCR Freeport Full Business Case.

 

John Fogarty, Executive Director Corporate Services, informed Members that the Full Business Case for the Freeport had been submitted to Government in accordance with Governments deadlines.  The Business Case reflected the City Region’s priorities and played into the region’s strategic location facing westward towards North America and its connectivity as a region within the UK. 

 

It was reported that as well as securing potential inward investment of a very high significant level, Freeport status would also protect the existing jobs and industries in the City Region. Furthermore, the Business Case emphasised the importance of seeking inward investment which supported inclusive growth and also contributed to the zero carbon targets.

 

Members were informed that the Business Case included a gateway process which would allow the Combined Authority to focus on key priority sectors, and high value employment opportunities. It would also enable the adoption of the Fair Employment Charter and a focus on social value, training and skills and the benefits of Freeport status would be felt across all communities within the City Region.

 

Mr Asif Hamid MBE stated that the Freeport provided the City Region with a unique opportunity to enhance the excellent value proposition it had got within its international investment and also its manufacturing export especially with the US and Canada which was the City Region’s largest source of inward investment. The Freeport and the status of the City Region would attract global investment, and it could also be used as an opportunity to attract high value jobs. Furthermore, Mr Hamid MBE stressed the importance of ensuring that Freeport status enhanced the City Region’s proposition to the world both in terms of IT infrastructure and artificial intelligence. He did appreciate that there had been concerns expressed around maintaining social value and sustainability, about standards in Freeport generally and job creation but he confirmed that he was committed to ensuring that Liverpool City Region Freeport would be a force for  good.

 

Tom O’Brien, Chair of the Freeport Board, reaffirmed that as Chair he was committed to all points which had been raised and particularly in relation to creating quality jobs. He explained that a pathway would also be required in terms of skills and bringing people back into the labour market so that they could access the good jobs that would be created. Furthermore, the Fair Employment Charter and social value would be used to make sure that this programme would be underpinned in the best possible way. He noted that the region would benefit from the resources of central government, and he therefore felt that it was appropriate that best use was made of those resources. However, he felt that it should also be fashioned so that it met the needs of all six local authorities and the City Region as a whole to make it a success for everyone. He recognised that this would be a challenge and he looked forward to engaging with all of the stakeholders over the coming months and years. 

 

Councillor Maher expressed his deep concerns regarding the Freeport, in particular regarding the increased traffic in and around Seaforth Docks, particularly as this traffic route was already operating at full capacity. He stated that one of the disappointing issues regarding the Full Business Case was that there was no reference to any kind of traffic impact assessment having taken place. He reported that residents who lived along this particular traffic corridor and the surrounding area had some of the highest asthma incidents in the country. The level of traffic and resulting congestion for residents in and around Seaforth Docks was a significant issue for local people. Furthermore, Sefton Council were also concerned at the potential loss of income should businesses transfer elsewhere within the region because they had Freeport status.

 

Councillor Maher informed the Combined Authority that for these reasons he would not be supporting the recommendations and requested that his dissent to the recommendations be recorded. 

 

RESOLVED - That:

 

(a)    the progress that had been made to date during the Freeport set-up phase be noted;

(b)    it be noted that a draft LCR Freeport Full Business Case (FBC) had already been submitted to Government and that this submission be endorsed;

(c)    the LCR Freeport FBC which was the next key milestone towards Freeport designation by Government for immediate submission to Government be endorsed; and

(d)    it be noted that feedback on the FBC was anticipated from Government by the end of August 2022.

 

Councillor Maher voted against the recommendations.

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