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Should Norwich start taxing tourists for overnight stays in the city?

PUBLISHED: 12:28 24 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:21 24 July 2018

Greens want the city council to explore a 'visitor levy' for tourists staying in Norwich. Pic: Archant.

Greens want the city council to explore a 'visitor levy' for tourists staying in Norwich. Pic: Archant.

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

Tourists spending the night in Norwich should pay a ‘visitor levy’ to help pay for essential services in the city, Green councillors have said.

Green councillor David Raby. 
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Green councillor David Raby. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

With councils facing cuts to their funding from central government and having to find ways to generate money of their own, the opposition Green Group at Norwich City Council say the solution could be a charge on tourists.

Some cities, such as Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam already charge city tax to people staying in hotels, with money going to promote tourism or to government departments.

Edinburgh is looking to become the first city in the UK to introduce such a bed tax on hotel rooms and short-stay lets like Airbnb, to raise up to £27m a year to help the Scottish capital cope with all its tourists.

The leader of Edinburgh City Council says the tourist tax could be in operation by 2019, but it there have been concerns from businesses and hoteliers and bed and breakfast owners that it could drive tourists out of the city.

Hoteliers say the rate of VAT on accommodation in the UK is already much higher than in those European cities where city tax is levied.

But Green councillor David Raby will recommend, at a meeting of the full council tonight, that Norwich looks to introduce such a tax.

He said: “A small charge of, perhaps, £1 per person per night could raise funds to enhance the historical and cultural aspects of the city in addition to providing some essential local services in this time of continuing cuts.

“The city council needs to look for new ways to raise money and this small charge seems good value for visitors who get to enjoy everything Norwich has to offer.

“The levy would also help to level the playing field between established local hotels and B&Bs and online operators such as Airbnb.

“A charge paid by visitors staying in visitor accommodation would help to guarantee adequate standards, maintain a level playing field in the sector and safeguard the cultural and social offering of historic cities such as Norwich.”

And Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich Business Improvement District, was not convinced by the suggestion.

He said: “We would be reticent to consider that. There would need to be due diligence on just how much it would generate, what that money would specifically be used for and it would need to be fully costed.

“From our perspective, it doesn’t sound like a particularly rounded proposal at this point and we would certainly have concerns about the potential economic impact.”

The city of Bath had previously considered such a tax, but Westminster said it would not be allowed to, so if Norwich were to push ahead with the move, the government would have to be lobbied to permit it.

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