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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Freeports"

Samuel Williams: Bristolians are being poorly served by their current Mayor – the most deprived are hit the hardest

Samuel Williams is a communications specialist and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of Bristol.

The December 2019 General Election secured an extraordinary result with an overwhelming mandate for a Boris Johnson government and the Conservatives to continue leading and uniting our country, delivering upon the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union, and then strengthen our economy and communities with much-needed investment and renewed vision.

As the dust settles on the new political landscape, as Conservatives we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to demonstrate our party’s commitment to continue that which secured our victory: by listening, learning, and serving all people across our country, so that no one is left behind.

It is this very ability of the Conservatives to capture the zeitgeist through listening and learning, that contrary to what social media echo chambers would have us believe, Labour has failed to do. With a manifesto twice as long as other parties crammed with social reform pledges that many might ordinarily consider desirable, Labour still failed to capture the imagination and commitment of the electorate. Whilst they might have presented the vision of hopefulness and change many wanted, it was lost amidst the growing doubt that they could actually achieve any of it. Furthermore, they wrongly imagined that the electorate longed for a revolutionary styled remaking of the entire nation in a single Parliamentary term; in other words, Labour simply didn’t listen and didn’t represent the very views our representational democracy exists so to do.

The ‘we know best’ modus operandi of Labour isn’t just manifest on the national stage but runs throughout local government too.

For this reason, I am delighted to be standing as the Mayoral candidate for Bristol in the elections in May this year. Standing in opposition to the incumbent Labour Mayor, I say it is high time that all our communities across the City and all Bristolians are listened to and served; something that simply is not happening under the current administration. Even a cursory glance at the State of Bristol 18-19 report highlights significant injustices, showing an increasing year on year crime rate with 33 per cent of the population in the most deprived areas fearing acts of crime and violence on a day to day basis. Hate crime up. Those “Not in Education, Employment or Training” is above the national average.

Air quality continues to be dangerously out of control – and life expectancy significantly worse than the national average. Pupils in receipt of Special Educational Needs support or having an Education Health and Care Plan is above the national average and yet provision has been cut. In some quarters of 2019, the 20-week deadline to produce support plans failed to be met in 98 per cent of cases. Our cities housing crisis is met by a lack of leadership around affordable and social housing whilst rough sleeping has increased 10-fold in the last 7 years. This list goes on, and yet despite these challenges, Bristol is a wonderfully dynamic, diverse and innovative place, and is a world leader across sectors from education to the arts, financial services, STEM and business.

The fact is, many Bristolians are being poorly served by an administration that seems to neither listen nor hear the cries of frustration. In many instances, communities are feeling forgotten and those most deprived and in need, hit the hardest. Many on the Left blame Conservative austerity policy for these worrying trends and yet the simple fact is, as a city with devolved power and resource through the directly elected mayoral system addressing these issues comes down to a matter of priority and will on a local level.

As I stand alongside Bristolians, I commit to getting back to the basics of local government, that is to address the real issues that impact residents each day. That means ensuring that education standards are improving, especially for those with SEND requirements, and making sure support is delivered when it is needed. I pledge to support our local businesses, bringing life to our high streets and economy through pioneering start-up hubs. I back a freeport for the City and eco-innovation enterprise zones.

We must look forward towards a sustainable and healthy city developing transport, housing, and environmental policies which strengthen communities, improve health, enable equal access to all opportunities across the city, and work towards carbon neutrality. But more fundamental than a fresh and positive policy agenda, Bristol needs leadership that is not afraid to listen, learn and serve from a place of courageous humility.

Unlike many places around the country, Bristol maintained a strong Labour vote during the General Election. I would be naive not to expect a hard road ahead of me in the run up to May’s Mayoral election. However, I am equally aware that the city at large is tired of politics being done to them by a Labour-weighted Council Cabinet who is often accused of being unapproachable, unaccountable, and failing to deliver much-needed services. So, whilst I may stand with an outside chance of winning, I do so, standing with the people of Bristol so that together, Bristol might flourish.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ben Houchen: Freeports are a key priority for the North

Ben Houchen is the Mayor of the Tees Valley.

Many of Labour’s northern heartland constituencies have fallen. Their fiefdoms in Teesside and County Durham now have Conservative MPs, in many cases for the first time ever. Boris Johnson rules supreme with the backing of voters no other Conservative leader could have hoped to attract. However, their ongoing support cannot and should not be taken for granted.

The Prime Minister has it in his power to reverse decades of economic decline and give some of the most deprived communities the power to lift themselves out of poverty. With the stroke of a pen, he can restore the pride that only comes from being in charge of your own destiny and prosperity and he can do it without needing to spend huge sums of taxpayers’ money.

You might ask how, and the answer is simple, Freeports. Not the bonded warehouse zones the EU like to dress up as freeports on the continent, but fully-fledged Free Trade Zones that will restore the energy and urgency of trade and industry in left-behind areas.

Throughout his leadership campaign and the recent General Election, the Prime Minister rightly touted Freeports as a benefit of Brexit and a reason to vote Tory, and he was right. Since I started to campaign for a Freeport on the Tees two years ago I have found the idea has genuine support across the political spectrum. Even traditional Labour voters, at least those in my region, can see the benefits. I’ve spent the past year and a half putting it together with trade experts, top economists, the ports sector, and businesses large and small.

Thousands of proper manufacturing jobs, the skilled roles people want, as well as billions of pounds of extra economic activity. All delivered without costing the taxpayer, or indeed the Treasury, a penny. All in the nation’s former industrial heartlands and all done without any legislation that compromises employment and environmental protection.

In the Tees Valley region, in the newly Conservative constituency of Redcar, where the majority voted enthusiastically for Brexit, and perhaps cautiously for Boris, lies the best location for a Freeport in the UK, maybe even anywhere. The former SSI steelworks, now under the control of the South Tees Development Corporation could become home to 32,000 Freeport jobs and add £2 billion to my region’s GVA.

The town’s new Tory MP, Jacob Young, an enthusiastic Brexiteer, backs my calls for a Freeport. It was a key plank of his election campaign, and enjoys the support of all of the Tees Valley’s five Conservative parliamentarians.

I’d be a fool to think the first time Conservative voters that have transformed the political landscape of the North are now committed free marketeers, but in backing the Prime Minister and his promise of Freeports, they have given their support for an economically liberal policy that could benefit them in a big way.

Creating these low tax zones, when importing and exporting are made easy, it wouldn’t just mean new jobs, it would make two very important things clear. Firstly, that Boris and the Conservatives are committed to the North in the long term, and voting for us means voting for a better life. To have any chance of retaining any of the new blue seats in the former Labour heartlands he needs demonstrable proof of this.

Secondly, but just as importantly, a Freeports in Teesside would be a powerful symbol that Brexit Britain is open for business in a way that hasn’t been seen for decades.

So Prime Minister, at the risk of reheating a tired cliché, we’ve got an oven-ready plan for freeports that we have been talking to you about for months. Bang it on gas mark six and it will be ready in time for the budget. You will see the results almost immediately and it will be a clear signal to the former Labour voters of Redcar that Boris and the Conservatives can deliver for them. Let’s get this done and transform towns like Redcar.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

James Cooper: Turbo-charging trade is about products, not productivity

James Cooper is the former Chief Executive of Associated British Ports.

For too long, the UK’s trade deficit has failed to attract the attention of UK policymakers. Yet the deficit clips our economic growth, reduces our pay cheques, and requisitions our savings.

So the Government’s announcement of its intention to create up to ten freeports around the UK is to be warmly welcomed.

Whilst I was at Associated British Ports (ABP), we were keen advocates of a “trade first” policy and firmly backed the idea of freeports. ABP wanted to bring “port-centric”, export-led manufacturing back to our deep sea ports. Blessed with great infrastructure and significant underutilised land banks in often deprived regions, they offer ideal locations to help redress three significant imbalances – imports vs exports; the north vs the south; and manufacturing vs services.

And while you might expect ABP to support measures that would encourage the growth of trade in physical goods, my personal position has always been that I don’t really care whether it is exporting an episode of Doctor Who, a bottle of whisky, an Aston Martin, or a degree from Imperial College – as a nation we need to pay our way in the world and we can do that by designing, making, and selling high quality products.

But our trade deficit, especially with the EU, tells its own story – while we excel in certain areas, sadly, we don’t excel in enough areas at scale. The Bank of England, Treasury, and a whole range of economic experts point to a shortfall in productivity as the British malaise. But I am not sure that they are aiming at the right target.

The real issue for the UK is not productivity but product. It’s not that we don’t know how to use Google efficiently, the problem is that we didn’t invent, finance, and sell Google. We need to move away from the focus on productivity, a focus which comes across as simply telling our workforce that they either have to work harder or work for less pay or a combination of both. These are the economics of a ‘tee-shirt economy’, and is that what we really want?

Instead we should be encouraging business to develop high-value, high-quality products that the world wants to buy. Every part of Government should be turning its hand to this endeavour. Yet the Government’s website for those wishing to file a patent advises in no uncertain terms that the process is “complicated”, “expensive” and “long”. We need to address that, to make a necessarily robust process simple, affordable, and swift.

And for those that battle their way through the process to create a commercially successful product, how do we facilitate their research of the overseas markets we need them to succeed in? We know that SMEs in particular see accessing overseas markets as expensive and risky. Government could do more to provide high quality advice to prospective exporters, and should consider subsidising international travel costs for SMEs. And what about reducing the rate of corporation tax on the export earnings of SMEs?

Those who build and maintain our infrastructure have a key role to play. Highways England and Network Rail should be specifically required to address the needs of trade (not just freight) in their planning. The Department for Transport should hold these state bodies to account for their role in supporting our exporters. New infrastructure – both physical and digital – that links British exporters to global markets needs to be built. As an island nation, our competitiveness and our ability to trade depends on connectivity.

Our educators need to focus on delivering a workforce capable of designing and making the quality products the world wants to buy. We should incentivise the development of creative, technical, language, and financial skills to the highest level, and the Apprenticeship Levy needs to be withdrawn and instead replaced with an incentive for business to deliver high-quality in work training.

The Treasury needs to embrace more policies that encourage our entrepreneurs and the UK’s world leading capital markets to build global giants at home, in the UK. We are too willing to sell our most successful young companies just at the moment they are poised for take-off, leaving the rewards of our creativity for others to reap. It’s a familiar point, so let’s get on with reforms that finally enable us to address the problem.

The UK’s trade deficit is currently £46bn per annum, a surplus in services partially masking a £150bn deficit in goods. This represents real cash flowing out of the UK, cash that is financed either by borrowing or by selling assets. It is one of the reasons we end up selling “crown jewels” to overseas buyers.

Just imagine if that flow was the other way, finding its way into people’s pay and pension funds and, yes, ultimately into the Government coffers that finance hospitals, schools, our police and military.

Our vision has to be creating a much more powerful British economy that sells high-quality, high-value goods made by a well-paid and highly skilled workforce. Every part of government, industry, education, finance, and society as a whole must share that vision and be willing to strain every sinew to achieve it.

This may be challenging but ultimately the lesson for the British economy is painfully simple; to improvise on James Carville’s refrain, “it’s the products, stupid”.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com