HALTON businesses will get tax and customs breaks after it officially became part of one of the country's newest freeports.

The Government today officially rubber-stamped a bid to create the Liverpool City Region Freeport, which will enable some areas of the borough to operate under different regulations compared to other parts of the country.

Once fully operational, the Liverpool City Region estimates that the freeport could create more than 14,000 new highly skilled jobs, deliver £800m of investment and generate an additional £850m for the Liverpool City Region’s economy.

Initially unveiled in the 2021 budget, freeports are designed to boost economic activity near airports and shipping ports, with goods imported from abroad at designated customs sites being exempt from tariffs, enabling manufacturers based there to import materials at lower costs.

Companies based at special tax sites can also claim lower property taxes and benefit from lower rates of national insurance when they hire staff.

Halton is one of six councils making up the Liverpool City Region and several sites across Halton will be involved in the new scheme, including the 3MG Mersey Multimodal Gateway and Stobart Freight Terminal in Widnes, Port of Weston, and medical company Teva in Runcorn. 3MG will be one of three tax and customs zones across the entire freeport - which will also see Halton Council keeping 100 per cent of business rate growth generated there - while the other sites will be customs zones.

Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram, 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."

Freeports have proven controversial in the past. The were first introduced in the 1980s then phased out in 2012. Boris Johnson said at the time of 2021's announcement that bringing them back would help with 'levelling up', but critics claim freeports do not actually boost the wider economy, and instead just move activity from one place to another.