Bid for powers to invest in local services in Bath

A series of requests to central government for more powers to raise money for essential services in Bath is being recommended to Bath & North East Somerset councillors.

A report to the council highlights the current pressures on local services in the region, emphasising the impact of reductions in central government funding. The paper also pinpoints a range of challenges unique to Bath and North East Somerset, such as the millions of visitors to the city every year creating significant pressures on services and infrastructure.

Instead of asking central government for more money to meet such pressures, the report suggests that the council should urge ministers to consider providing more powers to the council so it can decide locally whether to raise more funding for local services, giving it the ability to introduce levies on tourism and short-term lets.

The introduction of a a tourism levy, as found in a number of European cities, echoes similar calls by Edinburgh, Oxford and Liverpool. The report also presents a proposal to request a power to introduce a levy on short-term lets, such as Airbnb, as well as allowing the council to introduce fees for listed building applications.

Tim Warren, council leader, said: “At present, we are simply not allowed to raise money in the new ways suggested here, and are too dependent on the funds we receive from council tax and business rates. Residents have frequently expressed their concerns about the constraints placed on the council by central government, and this report sets out new thinking. Crucially, it does not suggest that we should necessarily introduce any of these proposals, but that government should allow us the powers to do so, if we wish, at local level. It’s about us asking central government to help us help ourselves- not just going to them for extra money.”

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