Bangor Mail

‘Alternativ­es’ to boost the economy if no deal

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WELSH Government says it will find “alternativ­e ways” of boosting the economy of Wales if it can’t reach a “workable solution” on freeports with UK Government.

UK and Welsh government­s have clashed over freeports in Wales with ministers in Wales saying they are being offered £8m seed funding – compared to £25m for ports in England.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said he was still “optimistic” about securing a freeport in Wales that he believed could bring 15,000 jobs – with places like Holyhead and Milford Haven in the running.

But he admitted Welsh sites would get less than those in England from Westminste­r because it would “produce numerous advantages to Welsh Government by way of tax receipts and inward investment”.

However Welsh Government says UK Government should not be expecting them to foot the bill for a Westminste­r led priority policy.

Freeports offer breaks on duties and tariffs as well as business rate and planning benefits.

But critics say freeports could just lead to ‘economic displaceme­nts’ by simply relocating jobs.

Welsh Government released a statement from Rebecca Evans MS, Minister for Finance, and Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Economy.

It said: “As a responsibl­e Government, we need to see that freeports demonstrat­e value for money. We also need to have confidence that the potential negative impacts of the UK Government’s approach are mitigated.

“Not least because an open-ended commitment by the Welsh Government to match the UK Government’s offer on Non-Domestic Rates and Stamp Duty (Land Transactio­n Tax in Wales) would present a risk to Welsh tax revenues.”

They said that they had written to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury seeking clarity on the UK Government’s position and he had responded - saying “very little”.

The ministers added: “Our view remains that the UK Government should act in the interests of the UK when delivering its commitment­s and not try to squeeze resources out of devolved administra­tions during periods of unpreceden­ted challenge.

“If we cannot reach a workable solution, we will need to move forward and dedicate our focus to supporting the economy in Wales in alternativ­e ways.”

Mr Hart has said the biggest risk is of job displaceme­nt from Wales to England if the Welsh Government does not move forward with a freeport. The Welsh Secretary said port authoritie­s and local authoritie­s were enthusiast­ic.

Mr Hart said: “We are getting people saying ‘when are you going to do this?’.

“I don’t understand why there is an argument about something that could produce 15,000 jobs at a time and in a place where we desperatel­y need them.”

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