HUNDERS of millions of pounds and thousands of jobs could be delivered to Liverpool City Region after its freeport plans were finally signed off.

The UK Government has confirmed it has greenlit the business case for the 45km special economic zone in the city region after months of waiting. Freeports are special economic zones with different rules to make it easier and cheaper to do business – and designated zones where the normal tax and tariff rules of the country do not apply.

One of the freeport tax sites will be in Widnes.

It is hoped that once fully operational, the freeport could create more than 14,000 new highly skilled jobs, deliver £800m of investment and generate an additional £850m of GVA for the Liverpool City Region’s economy. It had been hoped initially that the freeport would be signed off by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, last autumn.

With confirmation from Secretary of State Michael Gove that the freeport can get under way, £25m of seed funding has been secured to upgrade infrastructure and stimulate regeneration. Businesses and industries that align with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authorities values have been prioritised for the freeport, including innovation in advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and green energy – with a particular focus on the region’s target to be net zero carbon by 2040 at the latest.

The Port of Liverpool is the UK’s biggest western facing port and handles 45% of trade from the US. It is the key coastal access point to the UK’s largest concentration of manufacturing.

Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, said: “Throughout the process, I’ve been clear that I will only use our freeport as a force for good, to help build an economy that works for everyone in our region. I want to attract investors into our area who believe in, and support, our local ambitions – those who will help us to protect workers’ rights and uphold standards, and who want to work with us to deliver regeneration and funding in the areas that need it most.

“The establishment of the Liverpool City Region Freeport has the potential to help our drive to attract international investment, create more well-paid, highly-skilled jobs for local people and build on our existing strengths and promote our international competitiveness.”

Mr Rotheram added that he would be pressing for the freeport to be up and running “as soon as possible so local people and communities can begin to feel the benefits.”

Councils across the city region will also be able to retain 100% of business rates growth generated by the freeport tax sites – located in Birkenhead, St Helens and Widnes.