LIVERPOOL has threatened to take the Government to court after accusing it of going back on a deal to let it use taxpayer cash to grab a slice of Southampton’s cruise trade.

The city has accused ministers of demanding more than the £5m it says it agreed to pay back to lift a ban on hosting the start and end of cruises.

Council leader Joe Anderson said the Government was “playing games” after agreeing a settlement and was now “demanding more money” be repaid after lobbying from Southampton and Newcastle.

Ports bosses, politicians and cruise-related businesses have been campaigning for a level playing field and are demanding Liverpool pays back all the £21m of taxpayers’ money it has received to build its City Cruise Terminal.

Around 12,000 people signed a petition backing the calls.

The grants were made on the strict condition the Pier Head terminal would be used to host day visits, not to start and finish cruises.

A ten-week Department for Transport consultation over the Cruise Wars closed on September 15.

Cllr Anderson said: “We reached what I believe to be an honourable settlement of the grants they allocated to us some years ago. We worked out a settlement and now it looks like the Government are reneging on that.

“They agreed the principle that we can have the cruise liner terminal operated, and as far as I’m concerned I’m going to try to make sure they do that.

“Even if it means that we have to look at seriously taking the Government to court, because I believe it’s a restraint of trade, especially if we’ve agreed paying them what they agreed to be a fair price back for the money that they gave us.”

Cllr Anderson said he had written to shipping minister Mike Penning to set out his concerns.

He said he had already “lined up”, in discussions with at least three cruise companies, 16 ships to use the terminal for turnaround cruises.

Southampton has spent millions of private sector cash strengthening the city’s position as the cruise capital of northern Europe, with about 360 cruise ships expected to visit the city this year, worth more than £400m to the local economy.

Liverpool City Council insists its terminal would not be a threat to Southampton and would take a small share of a growing market.

A DfT spokesman said the department was considering the consultation responses.