Chancellor confirms £450m AstraZeneca expansion

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirms in his Budget speech that pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca will build a new vaccine plant in Liverpool in a £450m investment. Tony McDonough reports

Jeremy Hunt
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivers Budget to the House of Commons. Image from HM Treasury


Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca will build a new vaccine manufacturing plant at its existing Liverpool base in a £450m investment.

Although rumoured for months, the investment was confirmed by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt  in his Spring Budget speech to the House of Commons. 

AstraZeneca will expand its manufacturing site in Speke for the research, development, and manufacture of vaccines – building on the site’s current role in supplying the world leading childhood vaccination programme.

This new facility will be designed and built to be operationally net zero with power supplied from renewable energy sources.

Chief executive Sir Pascal Soriot, said: “AstraZeneca’s planned investment would enhance the UK’s pandemic preparedness and demonstrates our ongoing confidence in UK life sciences.

“We will continue to support the UK in driving innovation and patient access, building on the strong foundations which have been put in place.”

In his Budget speech to MPs, Mr Hunt said: “To drive investment we’ve delivered one of the most competitive business tax regimes of any major economy, as part of our plan to help our key industries to grow.

“Our £108bn Life Sciences sector provides over 300,000 high skilled jobs across the UK and is crucial for the country’s health, wealth and resilience.”


The AstraZeneca facility in Speke in south Liverpool


This news was welcomed by Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, who added: “(This is) a vote of confidence from AstraZeneca in the work we’re doing to grow our health and life sciences sector.

“We’ll continue to nurture our strengths to grow the economy, deliver new investment and jobs for local people and establish ourselves as a global leader.”

Elsewhere in the Budget Mr Hunt allocated £100m for culture spending from the Levelling Up Fund which will include £10m for National Museums Liverpool.

Laura Pye, director of National Museums Liverpool said: “We are delighted to receive the support of £10m from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities in the Spring Budget, towards our Waterfront Transformation Project.

“This capital investment is a significant step forward the major redevelopment of both the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum.”

Other Budget highlights included a cut in  workers’ National Insurance by another 2p, meaning it falls from 10% to 8%. He claimed the cut, to begin next month, is worth £450 a year for the average worker.

Mr Hunt also announced a six-month extension to the Household Support Fund, a freeze in alcohol duty, and an extension to the 5p cut in fuel duty.

He increased the VAT threshold for small businesses to £90,000, and announced new taxes on vapes and higher taxes for business class flights.

Labour leader Keir Starmer was scathing about Mr Hunt’s speech, which is likely to be his final one before the General Election. Mr Starmer called the Budget a “last desperate act” and said people are paying “more and more for less and less”.

Liverpool business leaders offered their reaction to the Budget. Colin Sinclair, chief executive of Knowledge Quarter Liverpool and Sciontec Developments, welcomed the announcement on AstraZeneneca and also Mr Hunt’s comments on the importance of tach and innovation.

He said: “The Chancellor highlighted the importance of tech and innovation to economic prosperity and that is very much the case here in Liverpool city region. It is crucial that start-ups and entrepreneurs are supported to not only find their feet here, but grow and lay roots here for the lifetime of their business.

“AstraZeneca’s decision to make further investment in its Speke vaccine facility is great news and yet further evidence of our burgeoning reputation as an important UK and global location for health and life sciences innovation.”


Colin Sinclair
Colin Sinclair, chief executive of KQ Liverpool. Picture by Gareth Jones
Julie Johnson
Julie Johnson chair of Liverpool’s Culture & Commerce BID


Julie Johnson, chair of Liverpool’s Culture & Commerce BID and business operations partner at Morecrofts Solicitors, said: “Business confidence is a real issue across every sector.

“What we are desperate for is a reduction in the harm economic headwinds have done to businesses and their ability to invest. 

“There is some good news for some sectors in this Budget but on the whole the lack of support for some of those calling for the most amount of support is glaring in its omission.

“Investment in the city’s life sciences is good news as this benefits all aspects of the city, especially in terms of attracting those who want to do business in Liverpool.

“The relief for cultural venues is very welcome for our venues. Making the Theatre Tax Relief permanent helps our city’s theatres to continue to invest in their groundbreaking cultural programmes.

“A tax on Airbnbs is good news for our vibrant hotel and serviced accommodation sector. This benefits our visitor economy. The continued freeze on alcohol duty is welcome news for pubs, bars and restaurants, struggling with increased bills.

“The VAT Registration Threshold increasing from £85,000 to £90,000 is good news for small businesses, and independent businesses.

“It is worth saying that it is what isn’t here rather than what is which causes concern. Business Rates Relief ends soons and there is no change in VAT for businesses over that £90,000 threshold.

“We have been campaigning, along with the The Association of International Retail, to see the return of tax free international shopping in this Budget, which we are disappointed to see has not happened. 

“For our retail and leisure industries,  consumer confidence is all important. People need to feel they have money in their pockets to spend on the high street.

“Is there enough here to make them feel they can treat themselves and their family, going out for dinner or a show?”


Spring Budget
Labour front bench reacts to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s 2024 Spring Budget
Paul Cherpeau
Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paul Cherpeau


Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paul Cherpeau, said he was disappointed there was little mention of skills or infrastructure but he was more upbeat about other aspects of the speech.

“Stronger economic growth forecasts are positive news and will give a measure of confidence to businesses that we are not heading into a deep recession,” he explained.

“Business investment is also creeping up and due to increase next year but we would like to see a greater long-term trajectory.

“SMEs will welcome the greater breathing space afforded by a higher VAT threshold of £90,000, extending full expensing allowances to leased assets and the extra £200m funding to extend the recovery loans scheme.

“Liverpool’s economy is built on a strong cultural and creative economy, while tech and innovation industries offer the greatest hope for our future growth, as evidenced by AstraZeneca’s decision to invest in its vaccine manufacturing facility at Speke.

“There were several positive notes around tax measures for TV, film and production companies and performing arts productions, and promoting pensions investment into technology enterprises.”

Phil McCabe, Merseyside and Cheshire Development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We welcome today’s increase in the VAT threshold as well as the cut to self-employed National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

“Elsewhere, we were pleased to see a package of small business support in the Budget documents, including commitments to make progress on the HMRC administrative burden and on the national roll-out of the Business Energy Advice Service, as well as extending the Recovery Loan Scheme under a new name – the Growth Guarantee Scheme.

“Small firms are crucial for economic growth, and we were glad the Chancellor said that clearly from the despatch box.”

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