Tourism tax

Bath Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - Stephen Sum­ner Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter @stephen­sum­ner15 | 07741 295876 stephen.sum­ner@reach­plc.com

Pro­posal would net £2.4mil­lion

A tourism tax for Bath looks closer to be­com­ing a re­al­ity. It is an idea that has floated in Bath po­lit­i­cal de­bate for years, and Bath and North East Som­er­set Coun­cil has said it was con­sid­er­ing an ap­proach to the gov­ern­ment for new pow­ers to in­tro­duce levies on vis­i­tors to the city. It is also con­sid­er­ing levies on short-term lets and listed build­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. The coun­cil also re­ported a huge rise in the coun­cil tax ex­emp­tions for stu­dent homes, to £5 mil­lion in the last fi­nan­cial year. In Jan­uary, leader Tim War­ren said the coun­cil was look­ing at a £1-a-night fee and the au­thor­ity’s op­er­a­tional plan found this would bring in £2.4 mil­lion a year with­out af­fect­ing tourism. This could not be achieved with­out the gov­ern­ment’s bless­ing and now a re­port will ask se­nior B&NES politi­cians next week to agree to mak­ing a re­quest for the nec­es­sary pow­ers. The coun­cil is “un­der pres­sure from two suc­cess­ful uni­ver­si­ties and their grow­ing stu­dent pop­u­la­tion which im­pacts ser­vices”. “Stu­dent house­holds are rightly ex­empt from coun­cil tax, but it is es­ti­mated this has led to a £5 mil­lion loss of rev­enue in 2017/18 alone.” This is a huge rise on the £3 mil­lion re­ported by cab­i­net mem­ber for fi­nance Charles Ger­rish in Jan­uary, and means that stu­dents now oc­cupy more than the pre­vi­ously stated fig­ure of 26 per cent of city homes. Airbnb is also squeez­ing the Bath hous­ing mar­ket as land­lords and home­own­ers seek to profit from a lack of reg­u­la­tion on let­ting. B&NES Coun­cil wants to ad­dress this with a new tax on short-term lets. It also aims to cre­ate a “level play­ing field” be­tween high street and on­line re­tail­ers. A third pres­sure on the coun­cil’s fi­nances is com­ing from adult so­cial care. In 2015-16 adult so­cial care and chil­dren’s ser­vices made up 66 per cent of the coun­cil’s net bud­get; this bal­looned to 80 per cent in 2018-19. Mr War­ren said: “At present, we are sim­ply not al­lowed to raise money in the new ways sug­gested here, and are too de­pen­dent on the funds we re­ceive from coun­cil tax and busi­ness rates. “Res­i­dents have fre­quently ex­pressed their con­cerns about the con­straints placed on the coun­cil by cen­tral gov­ern­ment, and this re­port sets out new think­ing. “Cru­cially, it does not sug­gest that we should nec­es­sar­ily in­tro­duce any of these pro­pos­als, but that gov­ern­ment should al­low us the pow­ers to do so, if we wish, at lo­cal level. “It’s about us ask­ing cen­tral gov­ern­ment to help us help our­selves - not just go­ing to them for ex­tra money”. One of the re­quests be­ing con­sid­ered is for cen­tral gov­ern­ment to pro­vide pow­ers to in­tro­duce a tourism levy, as found in a num­ber of Euro­pean cities. Some UK cities - in­clud­ing Ed­in­burgh, Ox­ford and Liver­pool - are also seek­ing such a power. There is also a pro­posal to re­quest a power to in­tro­duce a levy on short-term lets, such as Airbnb, as well as al­low­ing the coun­cil to in­tro­duce fees for listed build­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. The re­port will go be­fore the full coun­cil to­day and, if agreed, re­quests will be sent to min­is­ters and MPS to help in­flu­ence their de­ci­sions.

Bath Christ­mas mar­ket is one of the big­gest tourist at­trac­tions in the city each year

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