Posted: Tue 4th Oct 2022

Tourism tax would be “foolish” says Council Leader and would “damage Wales” for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Oct 4th, 2022

Welsh Government are being urged to ‘think long and hard’ on a tourism tax by Wrexham Council Leader Mark Pritchard.

Welsh Government has opened a consultation on discretionary powers for local authorities to apply a visitor levy, something that has been branded a ‘tourism tax’ by critics and government itself.

Welsh Government explain in the consultation: “We propose that a discretionary levy on overnight visitors would provide a means to generate revenue for local authorities to invest into local services and infrastructure which is integral to the visitor experience.

“This would recognise the impact visitors have in some areas of Wales and provide a more equitable basis for the funding of local services and infrastructure between residents and visitors.

“The type of levy proposed in this consultation would apply to overnight visitors staying in commercially let visitor accommodation.”

The very thorough consultation explainer document can be found here with more detail.

There is some discussion on if councils should be allowed autonomy on rates or even geographic rates, with ‘honeypot’ areas perhaps even getting more focus, however it is clarified that the “…proposed intention behind this policy is to enable local authorities to apply a levy to visitors staying overnight”

With such a localised taxation model being debated we asked the Leader of Wrexham Council Mark Pritchard on his views.

Cllr Pritchard said: “I don’t support it. I have made my views very clear at the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association), and it is out for consultation now.

“The businesses across Wales don’t support it and I think it would be foolish, especially in these extremely difficult times, but I don’t agree with the tourism tax”

“I believe in it will affect businesses across Wrexham. I think what the Welsh Government should do is look at this and use it the other way around – that we are a country that don’t charge a tourism tax and promote that. I think you’ll get more of a benefit from that.

“What you’ve got to understand here with regards to tourism, it brings in millions of pounds into this country. I think lots of local authorities do rather well out of it, on their car parking and charging, an increase in business and footfall and everything else.

“In my opinion, it is foolish. You asked me a question as Leader of the Council? No, I would not support a premium within Wrexham.

“There will be a lot of discussions on on this subject and I would hope that the Welsh Government think long and hard on this before they take it forward. I believe it will be damaging to Wales as a country.”

The issue prompted wider comment from Deputy Leader Cllr David A Bithell on taxation powers, “There is an interesting debate about what’s happening nationally about the reduction from 20p to 19p.

“I was listening to Rebecca Evans the Welsh Government Minister the other day, because I think Welsh powers they can make a decision whether to implement the 19 or 20 pence tax, I’ll be interested to see what Welsh Government do with that.”

We asked if he would prefer a UK-wide rate or aligned policy across England and Wales.

Cllr Bithell replied: “I’m not sure why the UK national government at this stage wanted to bring in a reduction from 20 pence to 19 pence. I don’t think that’s addressing people’s concerns at this moment in time.

“They are more interested in paying their bills, with the energy and cost of living. The difficulty the Welsh Government have got is balancing the books and giving money to local authorities.

“From a local authority point of view, is it going to have an impact on us? I don’t know.

Cllr Pritchard also offered his view on the wider taxation question: “For me any taxation should be the same across the United Kingdom, it should be exactly the same.

“If you pay the tax in Wrexham or Chester or Liverpool or Manchester, you pay the same. I would be disappointed if we went in any other direction than that.”

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