Bed tax proposals under fire

EAST Anglian businesses have hit out at proposals for an extra tax on England's hotels, hostels and bed and breakfasts, and expressed concern that it would burden them with more red tape.

EAST Anglian businesses have hit out at proposals for an extra tax on England's hotels, hostels and bed and breakfasts, and expressed concern that it would burden them with more red tape.

The so-called “bed tax” is one of a number of options being looked at as part of a Government review of local government finance in England, with a report due by the end of the year.

Yesterday , the Conservatives launched a campaign against the proposed tax, claiming the great British holiday was under threat.

They unveiled a 'Save the British Holiday” ice cream van in Brighton, and gave out postcards for opponents of the plans to send to Gordon Brown.

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“The brilliant summer weather has shown what a great place Britain is to spend a short break or a holiday. But the great British holiday is under threat from a 'bed-and-breakfast stealth tax' - Gordon Brown's latest money-making ploy,” said shadow culture secretary Hugo Swire.

“There's nothing wrong with choosing to travel abroad, but no one will benefit from making British holiday a rip-off,” he said.

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Juliet Brereton, who runs the Ocean House bed and breakfast at Crag Path, Aldeburgh, with husband, Phil, said she would hate having to ask people for more money, and had only just put up prices up for the first time in five years.

“We are very, very busy here and we don't want people to be put off,” she said. “If it was 10% on somebody's holiday, it's quite a lot more.”

The tourists would probably still come because what they had to offer was “quite unique” at Aldeburgh,

“It just makes all your bookwork worse. We have got enough to do without adding more things to it,” she said.

“I think it's a shame. I think the B & B has got such a good name in England and they shouldn't claim it on there.”

She added: “We were hoping to keep these prices for another five years.”

Grahame Tinnion, operations manager for Thorpeness and Aldeburgh Hotels, which is made up of the Brudenell and White Lion at Aldeburgh, the Thorpeness Hotel and the Swan at Lavenham, criticised the extra red tape that would be involved.

“Why do we need it? It's not necessary, is it? I am sure there are ways of raising money without having to add a tax for our residents. Our rates reflect good value for money, and do we need a Government tax? No we don't. It's just another part of the bureaucracy that's not needed and not necessary,” he said.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Dugmore warned another tax could hinder the tourism sector.

“The cost to business of major regulations introduced since 1998 has risen to over £50 billion and the 'bed tax' would, on initial viewing, seem like yet another Government regulation that's going to add to the spiralling cost to business as well as put added pressure on the tourism industry's competitive edge here in Suffolk,” he said.

“Tourism accounts for a good slice of the Suffolk economy and is growing fast. If we want to see this sector continue to grow for the benefit of the county, then surely this extra local tax is going to hinder that progress.”

But a Government spokesman said there were “no plans for a bed tax at this time”.

“A local tourism tax, or so-called 'bed tax', is one of many areas being looked into by the independent Lyons Inquiry into local government funding, which will report to the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Treasury ahead of next year's Comprehensive Spending Review,” he said.

“Ministers are, of course, fully aware of the concerns of the tourism industry on the issue of a bed tax and will continue to represent the interests of the tourism industry in all cross-government policy areas.”

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