Should Oxford impose a tourism levy?

Ruth’s Lib Dem motion for Oxford City Council to lobby nationally for the power to impose a tourism tax was carried unanimously with cross-party support at Full Council on Monday.

The issues around tourist taxes are quite complex. Here is the text of Ruth’s speech.

In his 2007 inquiry into local government, Lyons recommended that the Government should consider legislating to allow some authorities to introduce a tourism-related tax where appropriate.

In January, the London Finance Commission reported on options for a tourist levy. It sets out international comparisons and estimated revenues.

Here are some broader economic arguments that have been made about tourist tax.

  • Tourists impose costs on the host society that are not paid for by the tourist. Residents should be compensated.
  • Tourists consume un-priced natural amenities and public goods
  • The tourism sector should bear the costs of promotion
  • Tourist taxes are common in many European cities
  • Hotel taxes may lead to a decrease in demand
  • The tourism sector is already heavily taxed in terms of ticket taxes, airport taxes and VAT
  • Tourist taxes shouldn’t only be levied on hotel accommodation
  • The admin burden would fall on businesses

How could a tourism-related levy work?

  • Flat rate per night’s stay e.g. in Lisbon
  • Percentage per hotel stay cost e.g. Berlin and Amsterdam
  • Flat rates set in bands e.g. according to star rating like in Paris and Rome

AirBnB has agreed with Amsterdam authorities to simplify the payment of the tourist tax by collecting and remitting those taxes on behalf of hosts.

There are alternative voluntary schemes too but audit would need to be transparent.

In Hackney, a £1 per night voluntary donation is added to guests’ hotel bills for:

  • hospitality training schemes supported by council programmes
  • Support for cultural events
  • Improvements to public spaces

The Heart of the Lakes accommodation company in the Lake District automatically adds £2 to every invoice it raises – guests can opt out (but don’t)

There are Tourism Business Improvement Districts in Loch Ness and Torbay, and consultation is underway on another one in Birmingham.

Westminster, Birmingham, Brighton, Bath, Edinburgh and Cornwall have all considered a tourist tax in recent years but none have gone ahead because the power to impose this has not been devolved by national government.

Camden Council wants to charge a tourist levy of £1 per person per night to use for extra street cleaning in popular areas like Camden Lock.

The figures for average hotel stay in Oxford are different from those in London where the average stay is much longer at 5.83 days. Inbound tourism is set to increase with the Westgate retail offer but how much of this will translate into increased hotel occupancy?

The devolution of power to local authorities to impose tourist taxes may be well worth fighting for, at a time of post-Brexit uncertainty and public spending cuts. I look forward to a wider debate.

Here is the text of the motion that was agreed.

Power to impose a tourist tax in Oxford

Council notes that a number of local authorities are currently lobbying for the power to impose tourist bed taxes or “hotel levies”. These include Camden, Westminster, Bath, Birmingham, Brighton, Edinburgh and Cornwall.

Council also notes the recent support by the Mayor of London for the introduction of such a levy following the publication for the London Finance Commission by the GLA of Working Paper 83 entitled Options for a tourism levy for London. This report gives details of tourist taxes levied across the world in cities that have a high proportion of tourists.

Council recognizes that the British Hospitality Association is strongly opposed to any imposition of a bed tax, and that the VAT rates in the UK on hotel accommodation are much higher than in other EU countries.

Oxford is the seventh most visited city in the UK by international visitors and is the tourism gateway to the rest of Oxfordshire. The opening of the new Westgate retail offer is expected to generate increased visits to Oxford. Council welcomes tourism in Oxford as this brings many benefits to the City, however this does bring with it an extra demand for infrastructure and environmental improvements, and cost to the Council of increased workload in some departments, for example Streetscene and Parks.

Council notes that there are uncertainties ahead post-Brexit with respect to Oxford’s economy, and that it may be wise to join other authorities in lobbying for the power to introduce and retain a tourism levy.

Council therefore asks the Chief Executive and the Leader of the Council to work with other local authorities representing cities with high rates of tourism to lobby jointly for the devolution of the above power. It further requests that Council writes to Oxford’s two MPs to inform them of this Council’s motion and ask for their support.

Useful references:

https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/tourism-levy-for-london-wp83.pdf

http://uk.businessinsider.com/sadiq-khan-calling-for-visitors-to-be-hit-by-new-tourism-tax-2017-1

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/could-bath-be-the-first-uk-city-to-bring-in-a-tourist-tax-a7516856.html

 

Rough sleepers in Headington – how to help

Residents have asked for contact details of agencies they can ring to get help for rough sleepers in the area.

Oxford City Council supports the homeless services in the City in several ways, by funding several organisations who assist people who have fallen into need and supporting them to get back on track. This includes funding the Oxford Street Population Outreach Team (OXSPOT) who make daily contact with Rough Sleepers in the City to encourage them to access services to assist them with finding accommodation. There are two homeless hostels in the city, as well as other dispersed  supported accommodation for rough sleepers and single homeless people. Oxford SPOT will work with anyone rough sleeping to support them into suitable accommodation, either in the city or elsewhere, as well as link people up with any other relevant support they need.

Information on individuals sighted sleeping in the City is always welcomed as this can help us to target our approach in helping them. Please record any sightings, or raise concerns through OXSPOT who can be contacted directly on 01865 304 611 or via email outreach.oxford@MUNGOS.ORG or by recording on Streetlink, http://www.streetlink.org.uk/, who will then notify  OXSPOT.

 

 

Who should empty your bins? Join the debate

There is ongoing debate about whether local councils should be reorganised. Austerity cuts affecting the County Council means that it’s having to cut or reduce services that are important to people, and it thinks reorganisation of the whole structure is necessary to use money more effectively.

There are two schools of thought on whether complete reorganisation is necessary.

Here is the link to the One Oxfordshire proposal supported by the leaders of the Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour groups on the County Council: it seeks to abolish the county council and the five district councils and replace them with one new unitary authority.

http://www.oneoxfordshire.org

The City Council believes that the necessary incremental savings can be made if all existing authorities can come together and work as one combined authority, however it is likely that this can only be allowed by central government if the proposal includes a directly elected Mayor.

Here is the Oxford City Council web page article explaining the rationale for its petition against the One Oxfordshire proposal.

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/news/article/384/oxford_city_council_launches_petition_against_unitary_county_council

Disclaimer: any inaccuracy of information displayed on the above linked web pages are entirely the responsibility of the local authority concerned.

Currently the county and district councils (the city council is a district council) are split over whether reorganisation should go ahead, and what form it should take.

We urge all our residents to take part in the public consultation on the One Oxfordshire proposal, whether you are in favour of it or not – your comments will count. We are interested to hear your views on this: we think there are strengths and weaknesses to both proposals. Unitaries may be the future, but their number, size and even the principle are not yet decided and deserve wide discussion.

We think it is very important that all authorities continue to debate the issues with one another, rather than take polarised positions.

Air quality in Headington

Here is an update we have received from the City Council about air quality monitoring in Headington.

By way of background, we monitor air quality at 75 locations across the city.  This specifically looks at Nitrogen Dioxide.  In order to gain good coverage across the city we rotate monitoring locations on an annual basis. A number of sites are maintained year on year in order to gather long-term data. We prioritise sites where we see breaches of the air quality objectives, as it is important for us to understand where the worst air pollution is experienced in the city

In Windmill Road we had a number of monitoring points in 2015, the majority of which showed air pollution levels well under the annual objective of 40ug/m3.  One monitoring point, called Windmill Road W, showed air pollution above this objective and we have therefore continued monitoring at this site. The other monitoring sites in Windmill Road, due to their relatively low readings, were moved elsewhere during 2016.

Monitoring data for 2016 will become available in the next couple of months, following ratification and approval by DEFRA and will be available on the Oxfordshire Air Quality Website so you will be able to see what has been happening at Windmill Road over the past year.

Beech House monthly update

Simon Houldsworth is the new project manager for the Beech House works in Latimer Road.

 

He reports as follows:

Progress on site:

Concrete works to the basement is progressing well, despite the drop in temperature and the limited access to site. We have managed to make our drainage connections in Latimer Road during the Vital energi works to reduce the impact on the access to Latimer road at a later date.

Work to be progressed over the next 4 weeks

We shall be completing the concrete works to the basement and starting the foundation to the maisonettes, as well as setting up a material delivery area.

Christmas shutdown

We will shut down for Christmas on Friday 23rd December and return on Wednesday 4th January.   There will be full time security on site all over Christmas.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drop in councillor surgery in Sandfield Road Sunday morning

We have secured a minuted assurance from Vital Energi that a community contribution will be paid to mitigate disruption caused to residents along the energy pipe route.

So far we have received a number of bids for the following and are awaiting final quotes:

  • A drop kerb for pedestrians at the junction of Latimer Road and Latimer Grange
  • Removal of footway paving and replacement with tarmac outside Latimer Grange
  • Latimer Road footway overlay
  • Traffic calming measures in Highfield (from Highfield Residents’ Association)

We are concerned that there are no bids on the table from residents in the area north of London Road and we are holding an informal street surgery to discuss ideas with residents.

STREET SURGERY

Sunday 20 November

11:30-12:30

by the Community Noticeboard at Cuckoo Lane/Sandfield Rd junction.

All three councillors will be available to answer questions relating to dates and times of energy pipe works too – and of course any other issue residents wish to raise. If you can’t come along but want to get in touch, here are our details:

Ruth – ruth.wilkinson@oxfordlibdems.org.uk   Altaf: 07931 345554   Roz: 07584 257156

Re-lining in Bickerton and Stapleton Roads

We have followed up suggestions from the Highfield Residents’ Association for changes/improvements to the re-lining scheme and here is the advice (in blue) that we were sent by the County Council.

Arbitrary painting solid white lines in the road between houses where there is a gap but too narrow for a car, or not asked for by the owners:

  • Between nos 10 and 12
  • Between nos 20 and 22
  • Between nos 23 and 25
  • Between nos 44 and 46
  • Between nos 48 and 50

As you are probably aware the Highway Code tells motorists not to “obstruct” dropped kerbs. Since marking a parking bay across them seemingly contradicts this rule, we need to provide something to indicate the presence of an access and deter any obstruction. As the access protection line (APM) is only advisory and cannot be routinely enforced, it should not have a great effect on residents’ parking. Unless the access owner complains to the police that they are obstructed. However, this can only occur when they are trying to use it.

Consequently those who have the sole right of access can park over their own access/APM since they cannot obstruct themselves. In cases where the access is not owned by the driver, they would need to ensure that those with the right of access agree. Similarly with joint accessways both owners would have to agree.

I would also add that in addition to the access owners’ agreeing any parked car would also have to abide by the control in the parking bay (i.e. displaying the appropriate permit).

I also appreciate that the gaps between houses might be too narrow for most modern cars but there are other vehicles which might require and have the right of access. 

 

 

Continuous double yellow lines extended unneccessarily to include width of front of house

  • Outside nos 21A and 21
  • Outside no 37
  • Outside no 51

Yellow lines are not being extended at these locations. We are unable to make changes to the parking controls since this is only a maintenance scheme which does not involve any changes being made to the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) which defines the controls.

Adjustments to existing double yellow lines:

  • Between no 28 and 30 there is an adjustment to the double yellow lines, yet the householder has asked for them to be removed  as the gap is too narrow for use and a parking bay inserted instead 

This corrects an error in the original markings. 

Existing double yellow line that should be removed:

  • Outside the being built 17A has no parking entitlement, so presumably the old double yellow lines and dropped curb will be removed?  Not marked as presumably builders’ lorries were parked there when the road was being marked up 

This length of yellow line is not marked to be refreshed since it is not defined in the TRO.

 

 

 

 

 

Energy pipe given planning go ahead…with conditions

The East Area Planning Committee met tonight to discuss the energy pipe application 16/01565/FUL

It granted consent subject to 20 conditions, some of which were amended or added during the meeting*. There are also 6 informatives. Provisionally we noted these as follows (but are subject to change as minutes not yet available):

Conditions

  1. Development begun within time limit.
  2. Develop in accordance with approved plans.
  3. Materials.
  4. Tree Protection Plan (TPP) 2.
  5. Arboricultural Method Statement (AMS) 2.
  6. Monitoring and Supervision of Trees.
  7. De-compaction of RPAs.
  8. Noise mitigation measures.
  9. Temporary Car Park. *Extra lighting
  10. JR Compound.
  11. Churchill Compound.
  12. Welfare Compound.
  13. Visitor Permits.
  14. Construction Traffic Management Plan. *To be a living document with sign off by the Head of Planning and Regulatory Services in conjunction with the Chair of the East Area Planning Committee and the four ward councillors in the affected wards
  15. Hours of Work.
  16. Arch – Implementation of programme.
  17. Use of Pipework.
  18. Air Quality Measures.
  19. Communications* to include leaflet, web updates, disability provision, clear instruction on how to claim for damage arising from works, residents to be leafleted promptly if unexpected delays to works occur
  20. Charging point for electric vehicles* – check availability at hospital sites to ensure facility is available

Informatives

  1. All works to be noticed in accordance with the NRSWA Act including applying for Section 50 licence….
  2. All works must comply with the code of practice for NRSWA, namely chapter 8 Signing and Guarding, and reinstatements
  3. Traffic management associated with the proposed work to be agreed …with County Council officers….
  4. Any Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders or Temporary Traffic Signals required must be duly applied for in a timely manner..
  5. City Council’s legal position re ownership of land affected*
  6. Additional maintenance work may require planning permission*

Minute

To include the willingness of the applicant to make available a community contribution

Before sign off of CTMP, clarification/action needed for:

  • road sweeper will be hired to clean roads as required  – required by whom?
  • highways condition survey must be done and recorded for the entire route prior to commencement

The draft minutes will be produced by Friday afternoon 9/9/16 and any 12 councillors may call in the decision for deliberation by a further planning committee Tuesday 13/9/16.

If unchallenged, the decision notice is likely to be sent out before the end of next week.

Technically, the County Council requires three weeks notice before works can start so works could theoretically begin as early as 10th October, however work will need to be done to satisfy certain conditions first. The start date for works will also need to fit around the Access to Headington works which are due to start at the Roosevelt Drive/Old Road junction the following week. No energy pipe work can be carried out in Churchill Drive till the Access to Headington works finish in Roosevelt Drive so the phasing of works will need to be revised.

 

Headington Neighbourhood Plan out for FORMAL consultation

All comments on the submission document will be sent to the formal examiner. Here is some background information.

Headington Neighbourhood Forum has been preparing a Neighbourhood Plan for the Headington Neighbourhood Area (designated in April 2014).  It is intended that the Neighbourhood Plan will be used to guide future development and manage the change alongside Oxford’s Local Plan.

The previous consultation stages were organised and managed by the Headington Neighbourhood Forum.   The Forum has taken account of comments raised at each consultation stage in drafting the policies in the plan.  The Consultation Statement, which has been produced by the Headington Neighbourhood Forum, is available on the City Council’s website: www.oxford.gov.uk/headingtonplan

The next stage of the project is the Submission Document, which includes the Headington Neighbourhood Forum’s proposed wording for their Neighbourhood Plan.  This consultation stage is managed and organised by the City Council.

The Submission Document has been published for consultation from: Friday 26th August to Friday 7th October

The Neighbourhood Plan documents and all other supporting information are available to view on the City Council’s website:  www.oxford.gov.uk/headingtonplan.  The documents are also available to view at the City Council’s main offices in St. Aldate’s, Monday to Friday between 09.00 and 16.30 and in Headington Library.

All comments should be submitted on a Comment Form which is available (and can be completed electronically) from the website.  Paper copies are available at Oxford City Council Offices in St. Aldate’s and in Headington Library.

All comments must be received at the City Council’s offices by 4pm on Friday 7th October 2016

Comments made during the consultation period will be collated and sent to an independent examiner.  The independent examiner will have regard to any relevant comments when examining the document.

It is important that comments in support of the plan are sent in as well as objections to ensure that the examiner gets a completely balanced picture of people’s views.

Please contact us if you require any further help or information.

Latest on the energy pipe application

We have left an A3 hard copy version of the Construction Traffic Management Plan relating to the energy pipe application at Headington Library for residents to study. This is a work in progress and subject to change.

The planning committee meeting about the energy pipe application is going to take place on 7th September. The construction traffic management plan is being prepared now by the County Networks Team and the applicant and will only come into operation if planning consent is granted.

We are working closely with the County Networks Team which manages traffic when works happen. They have asked us some questions which we shall be talking to residents about:

  • Lime Walk South is likely to be one way only (downhill direction towards London Road) while works are ongoing in that area. Do residents consider that Bickerton Road and Stapleton Road could usefully be made one way while works are happening between London Road and Old Road?
  • Should access to the above area be signed “Access to frontages only” while works are on-going?
  • The works to All Saints junction would make it trickier for residents in New Headington to access their properties – do they think that the bollards at the end of Bateman Street should be removed temporarily so that people who live in Piper, Windsor, Wilberforce, Perrin, Bateman Streets and Kennett Road will have a second route in/out during the period these works are happening? (c3 weeks)

Please let us have your views on these issues as there is limited time to influence this traffic management plan to best advantage.

At present it seems that the County meeting held in public on whether consent should be granted for a street works licence will happen at 2pm on 5/9 with a City briefing on the legal implications to councillors in public very very soon afterwards (date to be confirmed) and certainly before 7/9.