MORE pressure is being applied to stop Liverpool using public funds for turnaround cruises – potentially taking business away from the Port of Tyne.
North east Conservative MEP Martin Callanan has joined four other MEPs in writing to the European Commission demanding that all of a £10m grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) be repaid before cruises can start and end at the terminal on the Mersey.
The terminal was built with £9m from the UK Government and the £10m European grant on the condition that it did not compete for turnaround cruise business with privately funded operations at other UK ports.
Liverpool City Council has offered to repay the £9m UK grant and is pressing ahead with plans to host turnaround cruises by granting planning permission for a temporary baggage handling and check-in facility.
The first cruises are due to begin in May, despite the fact that the government has not yet announced the results of its independent consultation on the proposal, and the European Commission has not made a decision on the ERDF funding.
Mr Callanan said: “Some very clear funding conditions were put in place so that other ports including the Port of Tyne, would not be unfairly disadvantaged.
“By going ahead with the turnaround terminal before State Aid clearance has been granted, it is perfectly clear that Liverpool City Council is breaching its funding conditions.
“I want to see the UK Government take a firm approach and ensure that the taxpayers’ money is returned if Liverpool is to proceed.
“I also urge the European Commission to enforce the condition of the EU grant. Anything less will set a very dangerous precedent.”