Two Brighton politicians have spoken about the prospect of a tourist tax or hotel tax.
Simon Kirby, the Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, and Ben Duncan, one of the Green councillors for Queen’s Park, have raised the subject.
Mr Kirby said that he had written to Labour leader Ed Miliband.
He accused Labour of proposing a holiday tax which would “force up the cost of living for hard-working people and threaten jobs across Britain’s tourist industry”.
He said: “Earlier this month Labour shadow minister Sadiq Khan called for the ‘introduction of a levy on overnight accommodation’, a move echoed by a Labour select committee chairman and many Labour councillors.
“The last Labour Government also proposed a new hotel tax in its Lyons Inquiry report into local government finance but backed off after a campaign by Conservatives.
“Such a hotel tax is now on Labour’s policy agenda once again.
“Hotels and other accommodation are already subject to VAT, corporation tax, business rates and national insurance.”
He wrote: “Given the unprecedented scale of the government’s attack on Brighton council’s finances, it is time to look again at local revenue-raising measures – including a tourist tax or big hotel levy.
“The basic idea is simple: define the largest hotels, say those with more than 30 rooms, or those offering rooms for more than £100 a night – or wherever the experts say the line should be drawn between a large and expensive hotel and a smaller bed and breakfast, guest house or hostel – and levy a charge, say £2 a night, on each occupied room, with the money raised going to the council to fund environmental projects that will benefit tourists as well as residents.
“At a stroke you’d benefit all the smaller guest houses in the city, by creating a financial incentive (albeit a small one) for people to stay there instead of larger hotels.
“And you’d raise a few hundred thousand along the way: certainly enough to pay for more frequent beach clean-ups, say, or more lifeguards, or some free drinking water fountains in the city.
“There are a few obstacles, of course: legal and ethical – but none that couldn’t be overcome.”
He addressed concerns about driving visitors elsewhere, about the regressive nature of a flat-rate tax and about the administrative burden for hoteliers.
He also said on Twitter that he was undecided about whether there should be a hotel tax but wanted a debate to take place.
Mr Kirby said: “I’m very concerned about any plans for a new holiday tax which would do great harm to the tourism industry in Brighton.
“Brighton is a fantastic place to have a holiday and tourism is absolutely vital to the local economy.
“We should be encouraging people to enjoy our unique city.
“Labour’s plans will make having a holiday here far more expensive which will drive people elsewhere and do terrible damage to our tourism industry.
“I have written to the Leader of the Opposition Ed Mililband expressing my concerns about this proposal.”
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