Cammy Day: City must house the homeless and tax tourists

Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn at the homeless village in Granton. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn at the homeless village in Granton. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Charging visitors £1 a night would generate millions for city, writes council Labour group leader Cammy Day.

As the sun shone down on Granton last week, I was one of the many people privileged to attend the opening of the Social Bite Village and hear the real, lived experiences of people who have been homeless. Social Bite and Cyrenians have developed the village to ensure proper support for homeless people, including access to education, training and work. This is one of the many initiatives the council are supporting to try and reduce and ultimately eradicate homelessness.

Labour group leader Cammy Day at the City Chambers

Labour group leader Cammy Day at the City Chambers

As we progress our proposals for a Transient Visitor Levy, we will soon engage with businesses, local communities, the cultural community and many more to ensure that our offer will be one fit for a capital city and Edinburgh will join the many other capital cities like Barcelona, Berlin and Rome which enjoy this additional income to help the city mange the impact of tourism.

READ MORE: Edinburgh tourism tax ‘unlikely’ to deter visitors

We published some extensive research on Friday that pointed to a strongly performing hospitality sector with some of the highest occupancy rates in Europe that could comfortably absorb the impact of a small price rise.

A charge of £1 per person per night could generate over £11 million each year but, depending on the mechanism used, the additional income could be as high as £29m. This could be invested into local services to the benefit of residents, visitors and the tourist industry itself, such as investing in parks, public spaces, clean streets and reduced ticket prices for cultural attractions.

I appreciate not everyone will entirely support this but sometimes we must do what’s right. I was really pleased to meet Richard Branson and his colleagues last week at the start of their plans to develop a Virgin Hotel here and was pleased to hear their openness to a TVL being introduced.

Chief executive, Raul Leal, was keen to set the record straight following some of last week’s media coverage. He said: “Virgin Hotels is an international brand and we are well used to local tax arrangements and in Chicago we operate perfectly well with a local accommodation tax. If Edinburgh chooses to adopt this model, we see no difficulties in operating in such an environment. Edinburgh is a vibrant and international city, and we want to be a strong partner in helping improve tourism for both Edinburgh and Scotland.”

READ MORE: In pictures; First look at Social Bite homeless village in Granton

Recently I met with the campaigners to save the COMAS Project and Serenity Café whose lease on their current premises in the Old Town has not been renewed. This project is part of the city’s Alcohol and Drug Partnership, helping those who need support through recovery. We need to ensure this project remains in the city delivering a great local service to those in need. So I am hugely pleased that by working with the council they have secured a premises nearby at the old Lismore Rigby Club building. Well done to everyone who supported their campaign.

Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting the Boardwalk Café staff on the Cramond Promenade and hearing of Eddie and Sarah’s exciting plans to help raise the profile of Edinburgh’s fantastic shore along Silverknowes, Cramond and Granton. The time has come for the Capital to embrace its shoreline, to look for wider economic benefits, deliver housing, a promenade lit up all year round, activities for all ages and make the North of the city a new destination for us all to enjoy and spend time in.