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Spectre of tourism tax raised by Labour-Plaid Cymru pact says Wales Tourism Alliance

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Plaid Cymru

Labour and Plaid Cymru announce next steps in introducing tourist tax

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The Welsh Government has confirmed a consultation on proposals for a local visitor levy will launch in autumn 2022.

Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said a levy would enable destinations in Wales to be enjoyed for generations to come. The Welsh Conservatives have opposed the tax saying it would be “devastating for businesses and the economy”.

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Tourism provides a substantial economic contribution to Wales with tourism-related expenditure reaching more than £5bn annually in 2019. The Welsh Government argue that a tourism tax would raise revenue for local authorities enabling them to manage services and infrastructure which makes tourism a success.

The Labour party’s Welsh Government’s Programme for Government, and the Cooperation Agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru, both contain commitments to introduce a tourism tax.

Rebecca Evans, Labour’s Welsh Government Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “Visitor levies are a common feature in tourist destinations internationally. They are an opportunity for visitors to make an investment in local infrastructure and services, which in turn make tourism a success. Without such a levy, local communities face an undue burden to fund local services and provisions on which tourists rely. From keeping the beaches and pavements clean, through to maintaining local parks, toilets and footpaths – the critical infrastructure that supports tourism should be supported by all those that rely on it.

“The introduction and subsequent use of such a levy would enable destinations in Wales to be enjoyed for generations to come and encourage a more sustainable approach to tourism.

“The levy would be proportionate by design, and powers to raise the levy would be discretionary for local authorities. This would enable decisions to be taken locally, according to the needs of our communities. The levy will apply to those paying to stay overnight within a local authority area. Opportunities for wider contributions on the cost impact of other types of visitor activities on local infrastructure will be offered as part of the consultation on the levy.”

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Plaid Cymru Designated Member Cefin Campbell MS said: “Giving local people the power to introduce a tourism levy will make a difference to communities across the country, many of which attract a significant number of tourists. It will give local people and their representatives more power and resources to invest and deliver in their areas.

“Councils will be able to ask tourists to contribute in a small way to the areas they are visiting and the local services they use.

“This measure will help support a sustainable rather than an extractive tourism sector, which will help bring the greatest benefit to communities and the local economy.

“Such levies – often known as tourism taxes – are commonplace in countries across Europe and beyond. This is about mutual respect between our communities and the visitors they welcome. It is a new policy which is the fruit of a Welsh co-operative spirit.”

The Welsh Conservatives meanwhile have reiterated their opposition for the scheme, pointing out that the levy was proposed in the last Senedd but due to widespread anger in the industry and Welsh Conservative opposition, the proposals were dropped.

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Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Tom Giffard MS, said: “Our economy is in a very fragile state at the moment and instead of working to get it fired up again, Labour and their nationalist friends in Plaid Cymru are actively seeking to damage it.

“A tourism tax poses grave dangers for Wales. Not only would it be devastating for businesses and our economy, but it would also leave jobs hanging in the balance.

“Labour and Plaid’s priorities are completely skewed. They should be focusing their energy on delivering a strong economic recovery after the pandemic rather than penalising businesses at this critical time.

“It is imperative Labour ministers drop this barmy plan before people’s livelihoods are hit.”

Formal consultation on draft legislative proposals for a visitor levy will launch in the autumn.

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Health

‘What century is this?’ MS calls for ‘archaic’ fax machines to be retired from Welsh NHS

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Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, has called for fax machines to be phased out from NHS Wales with immediate effect.

The call follows the revelation in a Senedd Committee that a fax machine had to be bought recently for a new Welsh hospital, with a top doctor pleading “No more fax machines!”

Following the meeting, Mr ap Iorwerth expressed his shock that these machines were still used as part of modern medical practice in Wales, tweeting “Pa ganrif ydi hon?” (What century is this?)

Dr Karl Davies speaking at the Health and Social Care Committee said that when “GPs fax referrals into the emergency unit, I never see it. Why is that not emailed to me? Because I can’t deal with the emergency information if that emergency information doesn’t get to me.”

The NHS in England has not been allowed to buy fax machines since January 2019.

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said, “It’s ridiculous, in this day and age that a new Welsh hospital has had to buy a fax machine so that it can follow outdated processes still used in parts of the NHS.

“It says a lot about the need to drag the NHS in Wales into the 21st Century.

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“This must change. Welsh Government’s hope that usage would decline naturally over time has not been borne out, and so they must now put steps in place to ensure this technology – and all the costs that go with maintaining these old machines – are phased out, starting now.

“If a news outlet wants to run this story, they may need to include an explainer on what a fax machine is – that’s how archaic the technology is! Our hospitals should not be relying on this form of communication and certainly not in the case of emergencies.”

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Money

Welsh Government plan council tax reform as part of Labour-Plaid agreement

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Welsh Government have announced plans for a consultation next year on a package of council tax reforms.

The move forms part of the Labour and Plaid Cymru co-operation agreement commitment, which the party’s say will make Council Tax fairer.

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Options being considered include revaluation, a review of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, and an evaluation of discounts, disregards, exemptions and premiums – with options for more fundamental reform in the longer term.

The Welsh Government say that reforms to council tax would be designed to ensure contributions from households are made as fairly as possible, while maintaining its role as a significant revenue stream which helps to fund essential public services including education, social care, and recycling.

Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “We want to modernise the council tax system and make it fairer. We want to make council tax more progressive in its design and delivery.

“This will be a significant piece of work and it will be important, through the consultation we launch next year, that we listen to people’s views and look at what can be practically achieved during this Senedd term – as well as leaving open the potential for further and more fundamental reforms in the longer term.

“I have been speaking with colleagues in local government, who are of course key partners in delivering what we set out to achieve. It’s important we co-design changes with them as well as work with partners in the Senedd and across Wales to find consensus on reform.

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“Changes won’t be brought in immediately and it will be important to focus work on the early building blocks needed for change, including revaluation. I want to achieve meaningful reform, with carefully considered ideas that everyone gets a chance to have a say on.”

This work will be carried out in collaboration with the Plaid Cymru Senedd Group, as part of the Co-operation Agreement between Labour-run Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

Siân Gwenllian, Plaid Cymru Lead Designated Member said: “Plaid Cymru will work closely with the Welsh Government and local government in Wales to reform what is an out of date, regressive and distortionary taxation. We have long argued that the current system disproportionately impacts poorer areas and change is long overdue.  We look forward to developing a fairer and more progressive system as we put our co-operation agreement with the Welsh Government into action.”

A consultation is planned with a view to introducing initial reforms during this Senedd term.

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