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Lib Dem minister puts forward 'tourist tax' plans

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 11, 2014

Comments (22)

SUGGESTIONS that the much-criticised a £1-a-night tax on holidaymakers could be introduced in Cornwall have been dismissed as a step too far by tourism chiefs.

Local Government Minister Stephen Williams outlined a “tourism tax” to Liberal Democrat activists at a fringe event of its party conference in York.

The policy – which has not been adopted by either the Government or his party – echoes a plan floated by a Cornwall Council officer two years’ ago to make the most of the area’s swelling summer population.

Mr Williams, Lib Dem MP for MP for Bristol West, gave the example of a “ genuine bedroom tax” when advocating giving local authorities more powers to generate income.

He said: “You could have a genuine bedroom tax on hotels, for instance, in major tourist areas – seaside towns and cities like York.

"The city council would have done very well out of us this week if there was a £1 bedroom tax on every room. That’s where I want us to get to – in local government being able to raise more and more of its own money.

“At the moment any new tax would require House of Commons approval. What I would like to see – this is just an idea, not party policy or anything yet – is that possibly why shouldn’t we generally provide that local government can set new taxes, possibly across a range of areas, property or income, within given parameters, and then go from there?"

Malcolm Bell, head of tourism board Visit Cornwall, said: “The industry’s response would be that the visitor economy is already one of the highest taxed in the world – Cornwall already pays something like £600 million a year to the Treasury.

"Some would argue they should have a £1-a-night back.

“How do you collect it? Would it cost more than a local council would collect? So there is an issue with complexity.

“This already happens to some extent with Business Improvement Districts – where businesses volunteer to pay but the money is hypothecated. Would that money go back to visitor services?”

In 2011, Tom Flanagan, Cornwall Council’s corporate director for the economy, told a select committee of MPs that the fee could raise £26 million a year which could improve transport and facilities – benefiting tourists.

At the time, businesses, politicians and tourism boards variously described the plan as a “PR disaster”, “naive” and risked the county losing trade to the rest of the UK and Europe.

Many point out that tourists, who spend tens of millions of pounds each year in the Westcountry, are already burdened by high car parking charges and rates of VAT much higher than in rival destinations.

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  • TWINSCREW  |  March 21 2014, 12:23PM

    Another Libdum election suicide note. where do they find these people and why do we have to suffer their stupid ideas.

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  • Juney-Del  |  March 18 2014, 2:51PM

    I might not be a resident of Cornwall, but I do have close family in several parts of Cornwall who we often visit and we love the area. We have found that holidaying in the UK (we visit Cornwall at least twice a year) is now much more expensive than going abroad, by adding taxes to tourism is only going to put people off which would then impact on those business's that rely on tourism. We always support the local business's as we don't use the big national companies and corporations even in everyday life. It would be such a shame to drive people away by taxing them!

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  • westwelsh  |  March 11 2014, 8:36PM

    'Zackly Cornish 321! Vote Mebyon Kernow for a Cornish Assembly to bring Kernow's finances back under Kernow's control!!!

  • Cornish321  |  March 11 2014, 8:00PM

    Maybe tax them a little higher and offset that extra money onto the locals that actually lose money as a result of tourism, eg those who own businesses that get stuck in traffic and those who has children in longer child care placements due to being held up in traffic, not to mention the strain on hospitals.

  • westwelsh  |  March 11 2014, 7:57PM

    I'm so pleased to see that some here have their heads screwed on the right way! Tourism as AnBlaores says only accounts for 11% of Cornwall's GDP, yet has a detrimental effect on 100% of Kernow. A tourist tax would go some way to addressing that. Also, taxing second and holiday homes until the pips squeak would address some of the housing shortage here. A tax on non-Kernow based tourism operators, who abuse Kernow for profit but take the money out of our nation, should also be instituted.

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  • Tam64  |  March 11 2014, 5:12PM

    Use a tourist tax to help lower our Council Tax.

  • break  |  March 11 2014, 5:02PM

    Am I right that this is a tax on taking holidays in the U.K? Instead of spending money to create industry and jobs, they just decide to tax us on what we do have, in the same way Cornwall Council charges us for car parks. They want money for nothing, and I doubt Cornwall would see any of the money anyway. It'll probably get the go ahead, free money, and Cornwall Council will back it like they always do.

  • IainS  |  March 11 2014, 4:29PM

    This tax could be used to offset the massive disadvantages for those of us who live here all year round. This is the case in the USA. I gain nothing from tourism and lets face it, it's not that big a business when compared to Cornwall's biggest industry by far which is agriculture and food packaging. While they are at it, caravans should be taxed and tested as well. These bring nothing to our local economy.

  • DipStick  |  March 11 2014, 4:11PM

    The "Tourist Tax" has already had a detrimental affect on Cornish businesses. If you haven't been following the news it seems that Lydia has turned tail and started to go the other way .... http://tinyurl.com/p9h3oa4 ... "She has covered thousands of miles since setting off from Florida, prompting speculation she could end up off the coast of the Duchy. But since Tuesday morning she has been swimming away from us." Imagine the amount of visitors we'd get if she'd kept on coming .... ?! DS

  • T_Flamank  |  March 11 2014, 3:08PM

    I pay a tourist tax when I visit many Greek islands and other resorts around the Med. An excellent idea and well overdue.



      Would you support the introduction of a tourist tax?