Labour plans ‘tourist tax’ if returned to power in city

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The main opposition group in Edinburgh is to make the introduction of a “tourist tax” to raise money for the Capital’s festivals one of the main strands of its manifesto for next year’s local elections.

The Labour group in the City Chambers has announced plans to call for the measure as part of attempts to overcome pressures on public funding from major events and festivals.

It was set to announce the proposal today as it formally unveiled its new “Moving Edinburgh Forward” policy document, which it will now put out to public consultation before finalising its manifesto for the May council elections.

Other key proposals include increasing the amount of goods and services that the city council buys from local suppliers, giving local sports clubs a role in managing the pitches and pavilions they use and campaigning for a public inquiry into the city’s tram project.

The “tourist tax” idea has angered representatives of the hotel sector, who say politicians need to be careful that they don’t tax businesses twice or more. Unlike a “bed tax” proposed by the current Lib Dem/SNP administration, it could be extended to other parts of the hospitality sector and even to festival tickets.

Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group in the city council, said: “The commitment is to look at it further and to seek views on it. There is clearly some degree of all-party support for it now that was not there previously.”

Members of the hotel sector have opposed a “bed tax”, which would see an additional £1 charge on the price of a hotel room.

Colin Paton, chairman of the Edinburgh Hotels Association, said: “Whoever is doing this work [must] remember that there is a property tax that for hotels is profit-driven, an income tax and, for hotels that are owned by corporations, there is corporation tax. I am sure the Labour group would not want to be anti-business by taxing businesses twice.”

Labour’s plan to formally consult on its “Moving Edinburgh Forward” ideas is thought to be the first time an Edinburgh political group has done so ahead of publishing a manifesto.

Cllr Burns said: “For far too long, councils have done things to communities, rather than for communities or with communities.”