A GOVERNMENT minister today told Liverpool docks firms they should have prepared for back-dated tax bills which threaten at least 1,000 jobs.

John Healey said the valuation review was long coming and those companies affected should have known that.

But the local government minister conceded the Valuation Office Agency should have moved more swiftly, and agreed a recession was not the best time for struggling companies to be hit with extra bills.

He announced further measures to soften the blow for 70 Port of Liverpool firms facing 400% business tax rises backdated to April 2005, with outstanding payments of up to 2.6m.

He confirmed such firms will be given eight years to pay and extended the offer to those who have become liable in the current financial year.

Previously it was only on offer for the three years to last April.

The loss to taxpayers will be 35m.