Bath and North East Somerset Council has abandoned the idea of introducing a new ‘Tourism Levy’ in Bath, leaving a £1 million black-hole in the authority’s budget plans, it has emerged.
The Liberal Democrat-run authority had planned to introduce some form of voluntary Tourism Levy from this year, which it was hoped would rake-in up to £1 million a year for the Council from 2015.
The Council’s decision to place so much store in receiving a large amount of income from an untested revenue source has been heavily criticised by opposition Conservatives, who have accused the authority’s ruling Liberal Democrats of ‘bad budgeting’.
The scheme would have operated by automatically charging visitors an additional small levy at tourist attractions and accommodation within the city as a contribution towards the up-keep of the city, with the option for visitors to opt-out of the payment if they wish to.
However, following questioning by opposition Conservative councillors, the Council’s Liberal Democrat leadership has admitted that it will no longer be pursuing the idea.
In giving a reason for the U-turn, the Council cited changes in Government legislation which meant the scheme could no longer sign visitors up to the payment automatically, thereby significantly reducing the amount of money the Council expected to raise from the levy.
Conservative shadow spokesman for Resources, Cllr Charles Gerrish, said:
“To anticipate raking-in an extra £1 million a year from an untried and untested scheme, and to then include this sum in the Council’s budget plans, was reckless. It was simply more bad budgeting by the Lib Dems.
“What the Council should have done is develop the idea and establish if it was feasible before including the extra revenue in its budget.
“Instead, thanks to the Lib Dems’ poor financial management, the Council is now left with a black hole of up to £1 million in its budget plans, which it will have to plug from alternative cuts to services or increased charges instead. To put this in context, £1 million a year could keep open all the public toilets and restore the majority of the cut to Children’s Centres.
“Unfortunately, under the Lib Dems the Council is gaining a reputation for trying to implement revenue-raising schemes which then subsequently fall apart.”
Conservative Deputy Leader Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones (Cons, Lansdown) added:
“Tourism brings in a large amount of money to Bath’s economy, so there is a balance which has to be struck. On the one hand, the Council must be careful not to kill the golden goose, but on the other I think that many residents in Bath would like to see tourists contribute a greater amount to the upkeep of our World Heritage city. We hope that the Council will continue to look at ways to ensure tourists make a contribution towards the upkeep of our city.”