Andrew RT Davies blasts ‘remarkable admission’ by Adam Price that tourism tax could be used to fund free school meals
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies had attacked Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price over what he called the latter’s “remarkable admission” that a tourism tax could be used to fund universal free school meals.
Plaid Cymru have already agreed that universal free school meals will be rolled out in primary schools from September as part of their cooperation agreement with the Labour Welsh Government.
But Adam Price announced during Plaid Cymru’s Spring Conference that they would also fund universal free school meals for secondary schools in those council areas where they won power at May’s forthcoming elections.
Asked by Sunday Politics Wales how he would fund that pledge he said that more money would be coming to councils as the Welsh Government gave them the ability to raise extra taxes on second homes and introduce a tourism tax.
“In the practical financial terms that you refer to, we are going to have additional sources of revenue in some parts of Wales – for example, the premium in terms of council tax on second homes, and potential tourism levies in the future,” he said.
“It will depend on the context of each local authority,” he said and pointed to parts of England where universal free school meals had already been rolled out. “It can be done because the experience of those five local authorities in England has shown the way.”
The Welsh Government is currently holding a consultation on a tourism tax as part of their cooperation agreement with Plaid Cymru.
But Andrew RT Davies said that it was a “remarkable admission by Adam Price that the new tourism tax would be used to pay for school dinners on Wales Politics show”.
“I disagree with the tax in the first place. The First Minister of Wales keeps telling us it will be used to improve tourist facilities. Surely even they know you can’t do both?”
‘News to me’
Last week a Tory Senedd Member had asked the First Minister whether councils in Wales could be forced by the government not to decrease spending on tourism if a tourism tax comes in.
Conservative South Wales East Senedd Member Tom Giffard said that he was concerned that any money received that was ringfenced for tourism spending would simply lead councils to decrease other spending on tourism.
First Minister Mark Drakeford responded to ask whether it was now Conservative policy for the Welsh Government to tell them how to spend their money.
Tom Giffard asked: “I’ve seen claims from Welsh Government Ministers that seem to suggest that any proceeds from a tourism tax would be ring-fenced in some way so that councils can increase tourism spending.
“I’m not really sure how Ministers can make that claim, because the obvious current flaw is that, whilst the Welsh Government could ensure that any moneys raised could be ring-fenced, it doesn’t appear that the Welsh Government can do anything to protect councils’ existing tourism budgets.
“Unless there is that safeguard, we could see an introduction of a series of additional taxes across the country that leave no discernible mark on the amount of money being spent on tourism.
“So, can the First Minister clarify whether the Government has the power to force councils not to decrease existing tourism spending when introducing a tourism tax, and if so, would they use it?”
In response, Mark Drakeford suggested that he contribute to the ongoing consultation.
“We will certainly explore in that consultation the hypothecation of the money raised through a local tourism levy in order to support the services that local communities provide and that make tourism successful in the first place.
“If it is the policy of the Conservative Party that the budgets of each local council should be set here in the Senedd and that we should act to prevent local authorities—elected, by the way, by people in their own areas—from varying the investments they make in different parts of their responsibilities, well, that is news to me.
“I wasn’t aware that it was the policy of the Conservative Party, but if it is, there’ll be a chance for you to make that clear in the consultation.”
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