UNISON opposes the idea of freeports. The UK Government has made clear that freeports will be private sector driven initiatives, designed to achieve the free flow of wealth around the world, devoid of social obligations.
Public services across the UK are already suffering the effects of tax avoidance and evasion due to our lax and under enforced tax regime. The European Parliament has raised concerns about money laundering, tax avoidance and evasion connected with freeports. UNISON has good reason to be concerned about the risk presented to local authority income in terms of non-domestic rates and the impact of this on public services and crucially on the redistributive effects of public service provision.
UNISON believes that planning and direction and delivery by the public sector is essential for inclusive economic development. This is the way to make sure that local communities enjoy the full benefits of economic activity. Local authorities know and understand their communities and are best placed to direct the response.
There is a need for regional industrial and economic planning but under strengthened democratic governance and with greater transparency and accountability to the public. We want to see local democracy strengthened by empowering and properly resourcing councils. UNISON believes that:
• we must democratise the governance around the city regions and regional growth deals;
• the insight and experience of trade unions and their members should be utilised by Regional Economic Partnerships .
We must align resources and powers with the principles of community wealth building. In this way local authorities and public sector partners can be equipped to transform and democratise their local economies and tackle inequality.