A CUT in the tax rate for the tourism industry could bring to an end Blackpool’s poverty nightmare.
That was the message from town hall leader Coun Simon Blackburn as he backed The Gazette’s campaign to get the Government to slash the VAT.
Coun Blackburn today pledged to lobby for a reduction through the Local Government Association in a bid to bring prosperity back to seaside towns.
He has been at the forefront of calls for a VAT reduction and has already written to the tourism minister. He has called for the Government to create a special enterprise zone in Blackpool, something he hoped would help tackle massive issues with poverty in the town by creating more jobs.
He said: “We will continue to lobby our two MPs.
“I am also working to persuade the Local Government Association that this is a huge piece of lobbying they could do because seaside towns have suffered disproportionately.”
He told The Gazette: “It has been demonstrated that reducing VAT works and actually brings more money in for the Government.
“If every family attraction in Blackpool was 15 per cent cheaper the number of visitors would rise and they would stay for longer and so the actual amount going back into the Treasury would be as high, or higher, than it is now.
“This could be a huge economic driver in Blackpool. More people visiting, staying for longer and paying substantially less for things when they get here, can only be a good thing for Blackpool.
“It wouldn’t just be the tourism industry that would benefit, but the whole supply chain of jobs.”
The UK has one of the highest tax rates in Europe for leisure industries, putting resort’s like Blackpool on the back foot when it comes to attracting holidaymakers to come and spend their cash.
Coun Blackburn’s comments came as hoteliers revealed some businesses are facing an uncertain future after being brought to their knees by the tax squeeze.
Martin Jackson, director of the Big Blue Hotel at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, said some smaller hotels could be forced to close if VAT is not reduced.
He added: “I know the hoteliers who just fall into the VAT bracket are really struggling, it is really tough for the smaller guys.
“And if the threshold changed and some of the even smaller hotels had to pay VAT they would definitely be forced to close. If the rate was reduced it would have a sensational affect on the town because the holiday becomes affordable.
“Once the room rate is paid, holiday makers are forced to pay VAT on everything they purchase, from children’s wristbands at the Pleasure Beach to meals in restaurants.
“I support the campaign, why should we penalise people who holiday in Britain?”
Nathan Smith Hilliard, general manager of the De Vere Hotel, said the Government should use Blackpool as a trial.
He said: “Any initiative to reduce VAT on a temporary trial basis would be a welcome short term boost to the local economy.”
Steve Pyatt, owner of The Waldorf on New South Promenade, said some mid sized hotels in Blackpool have been hit hard by VAT rules.
He added: “It is difficult for any hotel to survive when it is forced to pay 20 per cent VAT, especially when the smaller hotel down the road is not VAT registered.”
The UK’s VAT rate is in stark contrast to France, Italy and Germany where tax on hotel accommodation is as low as six per cent.
Business leaders including Pleasure Beach managing director Amanda Thompson and bosses at Merlin Entertainments, which operates the Tower, are also supporting the campaign.
Coun Blackburn said: “Amanda is someone who has real credibility in the business world and the Government should be listening to entrepreneurs like her.
“I would expect this Government, of all governments, to be attuned to the needs of business.”