Rishi Sunak’s freeports plan ‘nobbled by the Blob’: Whitehall officials are accused of killing hopes for low-tax zones by watering down post-Brexit proposal
Il Whitehall ‘Blob’ has been accused of watering down post-Brexit plans for freeports.
Senior officials are said to have effectively ‘killed’ ministers’ hopes for the low-tax, low-regulation zones – a key policy designed to boost local economies.
Plans are said to be less radical than envisaged, while the number has been capped at ten, leaving dozens of areas disappointed.
It is the latest row between the Government and the unelected civil servants dubbed ‘the Blob’, who are widely believed to be undermining Tory manifesto pledges.
Rishi Sunak, who championed the idea of freeports, was urged to demand improvements to the plans from his Treasury team
Last night Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who championed the idea of freeports, was urged to demand improvements to the plans from his Treasury team.
Tory MP John Redwood said: ‘The first freeports should have opened on January 2. The Treasury dragged their heels.
‘I think it’s deeply disappointing. They should review the whole thing, speed up proper freeports and make a much more generous offer.’
Ha aggiunto: ‘I think the Chancellor should go back to his original views.’
Andrew Bridgen, whose North West Leicestershire constituency will be home to the only inland freeport, aggiunto: ‘I wouldn’t want to water down or curtail them, or restrict their numbers.
‘It’s clearly something that rattles the EU, that we’re going to out-compete them.’
Eight areas in England were chosen as the first freeports earlier this year, while a further two could be opened in Scotland and Wales, with the first in Teesside operating as of last Friday.
Another row with the civil service ‘Blob’ – a term coined by Michael Gove for the educational establishment – is brewing in the Home Office
Companies based in the zones pay less tax and enjoy simpler planning processes, freed from rules set by Brussels, to attract more investment.
But Richard Ballantyne of the British Ports Association, who sat on the Government’s Freeports Advisory Panel, said the scheme could have been more ambitious.
‘We’ve got about 140 locations across the country that handle freight,’ he told the Sunday Telegraph.
‘If the Government does agree with this policy, why is it just restricting it to eight now and maybe two or three more?'
Another row with the civil service ‘Blob’ – a term coined by Michael Gove for the educational establishment – is brewing in the Home Office.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is said to have labelled her officials as ‘not fit for purpose’, while in turn they are said to privately describe her as a ‘moron’.
Last week former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre pulled out of the race to become chairman of broadcasting regulator Ofcom with a withering attack on the civil service.
He described his experience of applying for the role as an ‘infelicitous dalliance with the Blob’, claimed that only Left-wingers are given top public sector jobs and said it was senior civil servants ‘not elected politicians, who really run this country’.
CBI chief: Free market has failed
By Ruth Sunderland, Business Editor
The head of the CBI will today launch a damning critique of free-market capitalism, claiming it has left swathes of the country in decline.
Director-general Tony Danker will tell the Confederation of British Industry conference that successive governments have let ‘old industries die’ since the 1980s, with the communities facing ‘benign neglect’ ever since.
‘We’ve had five decades where the free market has palpably failed,’ he told the Daily Mail.
‘There is a debate on the Right of politics over industrial strategies and whether they should exist. That should not be a debate. This is a critique of Thatcherism, though not a traditional one, and also of New Labour.
Director-general Tony Danker will tell the Confederation of British Industry conference that successive governments have let ‘old industries die’ since the 1980s, with the communities facing ‘benign neglect’ ever since
‘But it is a wider critique because pretty much every institution took the same view. I don’t think you can “level up” without free-market capitalism but it is not enough on its own. We need partnership with government.’
The speech is a departure for the CBI, which is usually seen as a champion of the free-market economy. And it is likely to anger acolytes of Margaret Thatcher, who will perceive it as a broadside against her policies towards traditional industry.
Boris Johnson has put ‘levelling up’ the North at the centre of his agenda as Prime Minister, with the policy credited with earning the Tories a host of Red Wall seats at the 2019 elezioni generali.
Mr Danker has previously worked at business consultancy McKinsey, the Treasury and the firm that publishes The Guardian newspaper. He will deliver his speech at the Port of Tyne in South Shields today.