Harwich International Port could become a free port by 2021

HARWICH International Port could become a free port next year to boost the economy, it has been announced. The Government announced plans for up to ten free ports across the country on Monday, with ministers claiming the new "business and enterprise hubs" will create thousands of jobs. Free ports are areas where tax on imports is very low or waived in order to encourage economic growth and trade.

A consultation is being launched by the Government aimed at naming the locations of the free ports by the end of this year so they can open for business in 2021. Neil Stock, Tendring Council's leader said at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday he sees the announcement as a "terrific opportunity for Harwich". He said: "The chief executive and I have already had a conversation with the Secretary of State for Communities on this very idea when he was in Harwich before Christmas and it is a consultation that we will engage with to the fullest as it could represent a terrific opportunity for Harwich and hence for the wider district."

He said the Government has drawn on evidence from successful free ports around the world to develop a UK free port model. "The proposed model includes tariff flexibility, customs facilitation and tax measures," he added. "The Government is also considering planning reforms, additional targeted funding for infrastructure improvements and measures to incentivise innovation.

"Nobody could dispute that it sounds fantastic, but the devil as always, will be in the detail, and I will keep members informed as the consultation proceeds." However, Ivan Henderson, deputy leader of the council's unofficial opposition group and former docker at the port, said will not celebrate just yet. He said: "The Government has said it will have up to ten free ports in the country - at this stage we do not know what they will choose.

"The evidence I have seen in the past is that ports which have received free port status have not received the benefits they hoped the status would allow them to achieve. "People are also concerned the idea of a free port could open up the doors to tax avoidance. "I will wait to see what the decision is and what the proposed benefits are for Harwich before I start celebrating."

Mr Henderson said he would want to know what types of jobs could be created for residents.

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