Central South businesses rethink investment plans in light of Freeport announcement

Stuart Lisle, Senior Tax Partner at BDO LLP in Southampton

Businesses plan to invest more in the region in the coming 12 months, following the announcement by the Government to introduce eight new Freeports, including the Solent Freeport.

In addition to new investments, a further 13% are considering changing their existing investment plans further to the Chancellor’s announcement in the March 2021 Budget.

According to the statistics from the latest BDO LLP Rethinking the Economy survey of 500 mid-sized businesses, the hospitality and leisure (76%) and technology and media (74%) sectors are leading the way in planning new investments, however 30% of Central South respondents overall think it’s an ineffective policy.

Stuart Lisle, Senior Tax Partner at BDO LLP in Southampton, said: “With Freeports promoting new investment, innovation and employment, it should come as no surprise that organisations are rethinking their current plans. Given that the initiative is at a relatively early stage, it’s encouraging to see such a high proportion of businesses making decisions based on the announcement. It shows the mindset of the region’s mid-market businesses – is to invest in long-term growth for their own businesses and the wider region.

“However, our research also shows that a significant number of local businesses are still to be convinced of the benefits. Hopefully, as more detail is revealed, this policy will win over the sceptics.”

Originally operating between 1984 and 2012, the revival of Freeports comes with a bespoke model, along with a number of additional tax incentives and reliefs for organisations. These will encourage business investment in capital assets and employment, and will support the regeneration of underprivileged areas and drive wider economic recovery across the regions.

Lisle added: “On top of financial gains, there are other advantages – such as reduced administration through declaration requirements. Those involved in shipping and logistics look to benefit the most, as well as businesses that have import or export operations.”