Saturday, 19 February 2011

Tourist tax would help combat the looming cuts

It is hard to comprehend just how savage the cuts are. Such is the scale, that they are destroying the very fabric of services, not just for the next few years but forever.

The cuts are ideologically, not financially driven. The debt was much higher in the 1940s but we could still build our treasured NHS. The few economists who actually predicted the crash say that cuts of this speed and size will make things worse.

If you are still not convinced, just look across the water at Ireland. Deep and savage cuts pushed the economy even deeper into debt.

The speculators who caused the problem are reaping billions in bonuses. The workers they fleeced are losing their jobs. It’s not fair but it is real. And it won’t change till the Government changes.

So what do we do in the meantime? Do we just let services that care for the vulnerable, keep our communities safe, protect our health, educate our children and maintain our roads wither on the vine, possibly never to return?

Or do we try to do something to keep the basics there?

One way is to stop throwing good money after bad on privatisation. Another is a Tourist Tax. It won’t save all services or the thousands of jobs being lost. But it would help to hold together a framework for the future.

With business rates shared nationally, Edinburgh’s council gets precious little back for the investment it puts into infrastructure, festivals and events that bring people to the city, benefiting local businesses.

Surely a small return for that investment, to save the fabric of local services for local people is not too much to ask for.

We are not talking about the big percentages levied like some other cities around the world. With 4 million visitors a year, the Edinburgh tax could be at an amount that would hardly be noticeable to tourists but could bring in millions.

It won’t solve the problem. But it may keep the wolf from the door and allow us to build services to be proud of again in the future.
Published in Evening News 'Mouthpiece' (edited)

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