THE LEADER of Liverpool Council has admitted his bid to see cruises start and finish in the city is “back to square one”.

Joe Anderson made the comments after seeing Liverpool’s offer to repay just £5.3m of its public subsidy rejected by ministers.

His views were echoed by Southampton Itchen MP John Denham, who said: "It's not obvious that we are any further forward than we were a year ago."

Shipping Minister said Liverpool's offer was "insufficient" to persuade him to lift restrictions on cruises starting and finishing there.

He will now go out to tender for expert advice on an appropriate figure, which is expected to take place within weeks. But even then, the European Commission will have the final say on whether a further £9m in EU funds should have to be repaid.

Yesterday a spokesman said: “The Commission is in contact with the British authorities and will send them a request for further information.”

The commission could demand that part, or all, of the money is repaid.

The delays will be welcomed by the Southampton camp, as restrictions on Liverpool’s operation remain in place.

Cllr Anderson had threatened legal action against the government if it rejected the £5.3m offer, insisting the Dft had shaken hands on a deal at that price.

He added: “It’s disappointing that the Minister feels he needs to further consider our proposal given that our application has been with Government since October 2010.”