Steve Rotheram falls for Thatcherite ruse over Freeport bid

Freeports are a Thatcherite idea that failed in the 1980s. They rely on cheap labour, tax incentives and lack of controls. Why is the Labour Mayor of the Liverpool City Region backing one. Use the money instead to create quality, well paying jobs.

I have written today to Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram suggestion that he is currently trying to introduce the failed Thatcherite policies to create jobs that failed in the 1980s.

In my letter I point out, “You are currently supporting proposals for Freeport status for the LCR. You should be aware that this is not a new idea. It was a key Thatcherite plan for economic growth in the 80s and it failed. Thatcher introduced two very similar measures. 6 Freeports were created, one of which was in Liverpool and about 30 Enterprise Zones and Liverpool had one of those.

Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg have supported Brexit because they want a low pay and low standards Country where workers will be exploited. They are happy to introduce these Thatcherite Freeport proposals to our Country. I am surprised that you, as a so-called socialist, have fallen for this Thatcherite ruse!

The only way that Freeports work globally is by a relaxation of workers’ rights and the introduction of companies that either do things that they wish to keep from the taxman for illegitimate reasons. Everyone says at the outset of schemes like this that these things will not happen but inevitably they do because you have eliminated the means to control them”.

I conclude by saying, “The people who want to create good jobs will be looking at Liverpool for a variety of reasons of which low cost provisions are only one. More important to them is accessibility to research, transport and markets and the availability of strong local labour markets”.

I want jobs to come to Liverpool but we need to spend our taxpayer’s money and use our intellectual and other resources to bring to our City Region good quality and well-paying jobs. There is no evidence from more than 50 years of Freeports globally that they succeed in either of these objectives.

The full letter to Mayor Rotheram can be seen here:

Steve Rotheram,

Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region

By Email

Dear Steve,

Re: Liverpool’s bid for Freeport Status

One of the advantages of being a round for a long time is that I can look back on what has worked and hasn’t worked over a long period. In other words, I can learn from history and not repeat the mistakes.

In the 1980s I was both a Councillor and an adviser on economic regeneration. It was a time of tremendous industrial and social change in the UK and nowhere felt that change more than Liverpool.

You are currently supporting proposals for Freeport status for the LCR. You should be aware that this is not a new idea. It was a key Thatcherite plan for economic growth in the 80s and it failed. Thatcher introduced two very similar measures. 6 Freeports were created, one of which was in Liverpool and about 30 Enterprise Zones and Liverpool had one of those. One of the Freeports was an airport in the Midlands.

There were many similarities with what is being proposed today. The fact is that after the 10-year period of their existence they were quietly and unceremoniously dropped. That was because they had failed to make any appreciable difference to the unemployment figures.

Let’s look at what happened:

  • Jobs were created in the Zones by people moving from outside it but still moving locally.
  • Jobs were lost outside the Zones by people who couldn’t afford to move and then couldn’t compete with those that had.
  • Jobs were created in the zones but many of them didn’t stick. I personally oversaw the redevelopment of three factories built for one Company who closed within about 3 years after the capital and revenue incentives had been used up.

Of course, there are beneficiaries of these Zones. The principal ones being the benefits to land owners. As other costs come down landowners put up the cost of land. The net result is that there is very little benefit to those wishing to develop. The land costs can equal or even outweigh the grants and fiscal incentives available.

The only way that Freeports work globally is by a relaxation of workers rights and the introduction of companies that either do things that they wish to keep from the taxman for illegitimate reasons. Everyone says at the outset of schemes like this that these things will not happen but inevitably they do because you have eliminated the means to control them.

Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg have supported Brexit because they want a low pay and low standards Country where workers will be exploited. They are happy to introduce these Thatcherite proposals to our Country. I am surprised that you, as a so-called socialist, have fallen for this Thatcherite ruse!

We need to have jobs that are economically, morally and ecologically sustainable. We need to build up the capacity of our Universities and our leading global players within the private sector. We need to assemble education facilities to provide future and current workers with the skills to apply for high quality and sustainable jobs.

The people who want to create such jobs will be looking at Liverpool for a variety of reasons of which low cost provisions are only one. More important to them is accessibility to research, transport and markets and the availability of strong local labour markets.

I hope that you will consider this letter carefully and look closely at the research into what has gone before. The record is not good for the types of schemes proposed. I would always be happy to talk with you on this. In the meantime, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will continue to fight to bring to our City Region the high quality, high value jobs that our population need.

Keep safe,

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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1 Response to Steve Rotheram falls for Thatcherite ruse over Freeport bid

  1. Henry Penshaw says:

    I dare say Steve Rotheram may be petrified of dealing with the legacy left by the current failed city administration, and so desperate for anything resembling growth. In 10 years we’ve lost all momentum and lost or passed by all genuine opportunities.

    Will a Freeport do much for us? I’m not sure. But that it isn’t accompanied by a motorway connecting under, as opposed to over, Rimrose Valley Park, and that we are still not to be connected to the supposedly capacity building HS2… the odds don’t look great.

    The last English Cities Fund built office in the city is St Paul’s Square, from the last time the Lib Dems were in office. We’ve probably lost more square feet of office space in ten years than Manchester builds in just one. And there go all our jobs.

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