Liverpool/Southampton cruise ship dispute continues

Ship Image copyright bbc
Image caption Southampton has taken a majority share of the booming cruise ship trade

There is little love lost between the leaders of Southampton and Liverpool city councils.

Councillors Royston Smith and Joe Anderson are both big characters, with different politics, and widely differing approaches to an industry that promises thousands of jobs for their cities.

Southampton has taken a majority share of the booming cruise ship trade, but Liverpool wants it back.

On the Politics Show this Sunday the two of them slugged it out over the issue of public subsidy.

Huge investment

Five years ago Liverpool won a government grant to build a cruise terminal, with Europe matching the investment, on condition they didn't compete with the existing cruise ports, but used it for day visits only.

But with a huge investment about to take place in the Merseyside waterfront they're negotiating with the cruise lines and the government about stepping things up a gear.

There is a huge difference between the extra few pounds visiting cruise passengers spend in the shops and the millions of pounds earned in wages servicing the start and finish of cruise ship journeys.

Southampton knows that well and is lobbying hard.

Royston Smith says there has to be a level playing field.

"We want them to pay it all back, and the reason is because a private operator will make a profit from this money.

"Even if Liverpool City Council do pay this back, in part or in its entirety, they will be paying it back from council tax money, so public money will again be used to compete with a private sector company."

Pay-back time?

But Joe Anderson is furious at the way politicians from the south have called on European commissioners to ask for their money back.

"Royston is not actually telling the truth here. I've offered to come down to Southampton and deal with this issue because it benefits no-one for us to have to pay money back."

"What he expects me to do is go knocking on the European commissioners' door and say please take this money off me.

"They haven't approached me or the city council and asked for that money back.

"I would go so far as to say that it is obscene that Southampton are demanding that we pay that money back when we haven't been asked for it."

Hard times

The discussion fast became a slanging match which you can watch here.

Economic hard times mean each side is ignoring the huge cultural history behind the sea and the docks in their two cities.

No way are they 'in it together'. No chance. In it like rats in a sack, more like.

And making some early noises in Liverpool's favour now the government is left to arbitrate.

North or south? Public or private? Labour or Conservative?

It's a tough call.