A crucial opportunity to level up the Sunderland economy has been missed by Government, according to the city’s council leader.

Councillor Graeme Miller has criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget Announcement that saw Sunderland’s port, as well as the North East’s other major hubs, miss out on Freeport status, which would have offered tax exemptions for goods passing through. The status also brings major tax breaks for companies operating within the free port zone, something that will prove attractive to inward investors.

The Government pledged that Freeports would deliver national hubs for global trade and investment across the UK, promoting regeneration and job creation, with a focus on creating high-skilled jobs in deprived communities and creating hotbeds for innovation, fostering the conditions that will attract new businesses, investors and innovations. Sunderland – along with the North East’s other major ports, and major employers like Nissan – had urged the Government to back the area, but the region’s hubs were left out of the Chancellor’s Budget announcement yesterday.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, who also chairs the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), a £400 million 150-hectare development that will strengthen the Nissan supply chain, said the Government had passed up an opportunity to support Sunderland’s economic resurgence.

He said: “We have significant assets in Sunderland, and we’ll make absolutely certain that they continue to realise their potential – from Nissan, which is critical to the region’s economic success, to IAMP, which we are developing into an economic motor that will power the North East, creating thousands of new jobs.

“However, today’s announcement means we will drive that agenda without the backing of a Government that promised so much to this region and has delivered it a blow instead. Not only has Rishi Sunak not given our port Freeport status, but it has made a decision – in awarding it to Teesport – that means we are no longer on a level playing field. We’re pleased for Teesside, but this should have been extended to the whole North East – the case was absolutely clear.

“However, these are blows that only make us more determined to maximise the advantages we possess. As we made the case for Freeport status, the region came together, and there’s great power in that. We will continue to work in partnership to ensure the North East competes on a global stage, playing to its many strengths and creating jobs and opportunities for its people.”

Ahead of The Budget today, leaders across the North East had urged the Chancellor to back the region’s Freeport bid, which was submitted to Government earlier this year. Supported by all seven North East Local Authorities, the North East Combined Authority, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, the four North East universities, and a wide range of private sector businesses, landowners, and investors, the bid outlined how the status would help leverage a range of development opportunities, including IAMP, which will play a leading role in innovation when it comes to the electrification of vehicles, an important opportunity for UK Plc.

“The North East has vast economic potential, and we’ll continue to make the case strongly for this region and to work together to ensure the world knows, we’re absolutely open for business.”

Home to organisations such as Nissan, Komatsu, Caterpillar and Husqvarna, businesses in the North East exported £13.2 billion of goods in 2018 alone, equivalent to almost £8,000 per working age person, making the region the third highest in the country in terms of export value. It was estimated that this figure would increase by a further £2.1 billion over the next decade, while generating a further £3.4 billion additional GVA for the region with Freeport status awarded.