Tory councillor criticised for ‘absurd’ attempt to ban proposed tourism levy
A Conservative councillor has been criticised for an “absurd” attempt to ban the Welsh Government’s proposed tourism levy from being implemented in the county he represents.
Cllr Richard John proposed ruling out a potential visitor levy in Monmouthshire during a Council meeting on Thursday (June 22).
The Welsh Government tourism levy proposal is still in its infancy and not likely to be legislated until 2027 with the likelihood of charges not coming into force until roughly 2029.
However, during the county council meeting, Cllr John called on other members of the council to rule out any introduction of such a policy in Monmouthshire, saying a tourism tax would pose “grave dangers for businesses” and could leave jobs “hanging in the balance”.
He said: “Tourists contribute nearly £200 million annually to the economy here in Monmouthshire and they sustain over 3,000 jobs in the tourism industry.
“Sadly tourism in Wales has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Despite it being integral to the value of the Welsh economy, I think its disappointing that the Welsh Government is sadly no friend to the tourism industry here.
“A tourism tax would be massively damaging to Monmouthshire’s tourist economy, adding extra cost to businesses in an area where tourists visiting the Wye Valley already have a choice as to which side of the river to visit.”
Other councillors argued that this was premature and failed to appreciate that the full details of any visitor levy have not yet been finalised by the Welsh Government.
Deputy Council Leader and cabinet member for the Economy, Cllr Paul Griffiths said the motion was “absurd” and accused the Conservative Party of “playing on fear at every opportunity”.
Welsh Government proposals to implement the controversial levy have been met with mixed responses from the public and the policy is still in the very early staged of research and development.
It would give local authorities the power to impose a “small charge” on tourists staying overnight in commercially-let accommodation.
Similar charges are already in place in more than 40 destinations around the world such as Greece and France.
Cllr Rachel Garrick described Cllr John’s suggestion as “project fear on tour” and she urged other councillors to reject the motion.
Cllr Garrick said: “This is purely raising anxiety among business people of our county who need support and assurance that any such policy will be laid out rationally and fairly with definite consideration of its economic impacts.
“It is essential that policy is well researched and implemented with consultation. It is also essential that the council is run in a measured, pragmatic and considered way rather than through knee-jerk politics and we are pleased that the majority of the council understands this need.”
Cllr Griffiths added: “I am taken aback by the claim that a tourist tax is imminent. This is simply not true. The Welsh Government may legislate in 2027 and a tourism tax if made law is likely to be a matter for the council then.
“This motion will prevent consultation with the people of Monmouthshire and debate on a levy that would not be charged, if agreed, until roughly 2029”.
The motion to ban a tourism levy in Monmouthshire was defeated.
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