'Insane' plan to tax Fringe tickets

Edinburgh council seeks to boost income

The price of Edinburgh Fringe tickets could rise under after the city council leader proposed a new ‘festival tax’.

And even though ticket prices are already widely considered too high at the event, Jenny Dawe suggested festival-goers would be happy to pay the extra levy.

Edinburgh’s festivals have been estimated to generate £261million for the local economy – but some councillors complain they see little direct benefit from the millions of tourists who flock to the city every year.

Ms Dawe, a Liberal Democrat, raised the idea during a council meeting on Thursday, suggesting Fringe audiences would be happy to pay if they knew their money would improve venues.

She said: ‘I have heard the argument made for putting a very small percentage on to festival tickets and that could even be done on a voluntary basis.

‘If people buy online, for example, there could be a box to tick to put in a small percentage. If people know that it will go towards improving venues there is generally no objection.

‘Given the public sector is under increasing pressure with reduced budgets and increasing demand, it is worth looking at different ways we can raise money for things like the cultural sector.’

She also resurrected the idea of a ‘bed tax’ – a mandatory £1 addition to every hotel bill which could raise £5million a year for the council.

The idea was first mooted five years ago, but was dropped after hitting opposition from the Scottish Parliament.

However her new plans have been greeted with dismay.

William Burdett-Coutts, artistic director of Assembly called it ‘insane’ adding: ‘The Fringe is very fragile and while people at the council might think that people are making loads of money, it is not actually like that, and this would be very dangerous’

And Colin Paton, chairman of the Edinburgh Hotels Association called it a ‘cash grab’.

It would take 40 years of the bed tax just to cover the £200million overspend Edinburgh City Council faces on the much-despised £776million tram scheme. Construction work restarted last weekend, bringing fresh disruption to Princes Street.

Published: 24 Sep 2011

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