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  • "
    Tom Liverpool wrote:
    Bingo from Sholing wrote:
    This is not surprising. The cruise industry is struggling to meet growth targets. Someone has seen that some growwth might be possible from the economy-end of the business. Hence Liverpool fits the bill. The cumbersome turn around of the liners has not been predicted as a particular problem in Liverpool. Large Northern conurbations, with millions of lowly-paid workers, may prove to be a temporary source of new enthusiastic cruisers. However the operators should beware that they are not destroying the industry for good, by cheapening customer standards still further.
    The idea that everybody in the north is low paid and unskilled is so far from the truth, the demographics in the North West show this to be a false assumption. The Middle Class professionals in the North are alive and well. Just like in the South West.
    Just like a true Northerner. Make any debate into a class war. I was making a socio-economic argument, and made no comment on class. The fact is, the products offered by the cruise industry are not meeting customer expectations. Their solution is to go down market still further. What I am saying is that going down market will destroy the industry and possibly beggar the cruise operators at the same time because they will be unable to pay for their investment on a number of reltively expensive new cruise ships."
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Liverpool 'rocking the boat'

Liverpool's council leader, Joe Anderson

Liverpool's council leader, Joe Anderson

First published in Shipping

LIVERPOOL has been accused of jumping the gun after boasting it had struck a deal with ministers to expand its cruise operation within three months.

The shock development was revealed by council leader Joe Anderson, who said he was “really excited” about the city becoming a turnaround port – placing it in direct competition with Southampton.

Aside from repaying up to £9.2m to the Government, Liverpool is attempting to write off all of the £8.6m in EU funds it was given to build its £21m Pier Head terminal.

The Merseysiders’ move was branded “arrogant” by a Hampshire MP, who forecast a possible legal challenge from Southampton unless all the cash is paid back.

The Department for Transport insisted it was still waiting for an independent assessment of how much state funding Liverpool should pay back.

But Cllr Anderson, who has just launched a high-profile bid to become the new Mayor of Liverpool, said: “We can now look forward to the big ships returning to the Mersey to start and end cruises.”

He also said Liverpool would be able to spread its UK repayments over “a number of years” – based on cruise income.

Southampton council leader Royston Smith said: “It’s nothing more than political posturing. I believe he’s trying to force the |minister’s hand by announcing a deal has been reached when it clearly |hasn’t.”

Southampton’s port boss Doug Morrison, right, said Liverpool’s announcement was “frankly bizarre” and insisted it must pay back all public subsidies for a “level playing field.”

“Full repayment of all the public money, including the European grants, should be a mandatory condition if the Liverpool terminal wants to compete with private investment for the turnaround cruise business,” he said.

Last month, shipping minister Mike Penning rejected Liverpool’s offer to pay back £5.3m of the £9.2m UK grants it received to lift a ban on cruises being allowed to start and finish at its City of Liverpool Cruise Terminal.

He said he would seek independent advice on an appropriate figure, and was clear that turnaround operations would require state aid clearance from the European Commission.

The Commission said it would wait for the UK government’s final decision before its next move.

Liverpool believes it is under no legal obligation to repay any of the European funds, and is pressing ahead after claiming a deal with Mr Penning.

New Forest East MP Julian Lewis said he would accept nothing short of total repayment of both grants.

He said: “This shows a degree of arrogance which may well be humbled in the courts.

“It’s a particularly reckless move they may end up regretting.”

Southampton Itchen MP John Denham said: “There is no way a British minister can simply do a deal to |settle this. Our position has still got to be we are not afraid of competition, but it has to be fair competition.”

A Liverpool council spokesman said it was not being “presumptive”, but was “getting the wheels in motion”.

Councillor Anderson said: “We have held talks with the minister and agreed we will pay back any sum decided by the independent panel.”

A Department for Transport spokesman added: “As the shipping minister made clear last month, we are currently seeking independent advice on an appropriate repayment figure, and any decision on whether to lift the restrictions on turnaround operations will be subject to state aid clearance from the European Commission.”

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