A TOP hotel has warned that a £1 a night 'bed tax' could drive tourists away from Oxford.

Oxford City Council member for St Margaret’s Elizabeth Wade will on February 2 ask the authority to back a levy on hotels as a way of boosting public coffers.

But Randolph Hotel deputy general manager Ben Sanders said it would create “a major obstacle” for businesses in the city.

The levy proposed by Mrs Wade has also been considered in Camden, Westminster, Birmingham, Brighton, Edinburgh and Cornwall.

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And a finance commission set up by Mayor of London Boris Johnson previously backed the policy, which is used in European cities.

Mrs Wade said the measure could generate at least £2m for Oxford every year.

She said: “Camden Borough Council has said it could probably raise about £5m every year from it, so I think we could at least aim for at least half of that.

“The council is strapped for cash at the moment and that kind of money would go a long way at a time when we are having to cut back on spending.”

Money raised through the levy could be spent on city schemes to keep streets clean and improve public areas, Mrs Wade said.

She added: “I think tourists could afford £1 a night. Last summer my husband and I had to pay a small amount of tax everywhere we went in Italy and it did not seem unreasonable then.”

According to Oxford City Council, about 9.5m visitors come to Oxford every year, generating about £770m in trade for local firms.

A levy on tourists was in recent years imposed in some of Europes most popular cities – Paris, Berlin and Barcelona – to help cash-strapped authorities during the last economic recession.

Oxford City council leader Bob Price said: “£1 a night when you’re paying between £140 and £180 is not going to drive people away.

“Our view is that £1 a night isn’t a huge amount but it will raise enough to cope with the impact of tourism in a more effective way.

“The police, for example, have to put a huge amount of its resources into managing the impact of tourism and this would help them.”

Yet Randolph deputy general manager Mr Sanders said such a measure on tourists would hurt Oxford’s economy. He said this was because the VAT rate for hotels in the UK is higher than in European countries.

Mr Sanders said: “A bed tax would not do Oxford any favours and just give guests a reason to visit other weekend leisure destinations instead, such as Cambridge, Bath or Stratford-upon-Avon.

“That would have a knock-on effect beyond just hotels, because our guests spend millions of pounds every year at other local businesses as well.

“City councilors would have to spell out how exactly this could possibly benefit tourism, otherwise I would see this as a major obstacle to attracting more visitors.”

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