Southampton vs Liverpool in 'state aid' row
Southampton has launched a broadside against Liverpool in a bitter dispute over state aid for the cruise industry.
The city council’s leader, Royston Smith, has written to transport secretary Philip Hammond demanding a “level playing field” and opposing plans to spend public money on a turnaround port in Liverpool.
Cllr Smith said: “The Port of Southampton has positioned itself as the cruise capital of northern Europe by means of private investment.
“Liverpool must do likewise. It’s not about protecting our position or trying to create a monopoly. If Liverpool wish to compete with Southampton let them repay their public subsidy and compete on a level playing field. To do otherwise is an abuse of public funding and must be considered as ‘state aid’.”
Southampton said its turnaround port expected around 360 cruise visits next year, bringing in £400m to the local economy. A fifth cruise terminal being built in the city by Associated British Ports (ABP) at a cost of £30m, due to open in 2013, will cater for an extra 90 cruise calls a year.
ABP, which owns Southampton’s docks, has been lobbying against the upgrading of Liverpool’s Pier Head terminal to offer a full turnaround facility.
Merseyside MPs, business leaders, cruise liners and local newspapers have been campaigning for the upgrade and say Southampton should enjoy its own success but not lobby for a monopoly position.
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