Public toilet provision. The BBC “Reality Check” conducted a survey of public toilet provision in England, Scotland and Wales by first and second tier Councils. The article on their findings which at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45009337 prompted a number of national media reports mostly themed around the perception of significantly reduced public provision.
The headline figures are indeed stark, although it should be noted that in some cases the responsibility for provision has been handed down to a lower tier of local government (Parish, Town etc.) or outsourced under other arrangements, even in some cases to voluntary groups, so the number of closures may not be as high as the headlines figures suggests.
Nonetheless, it is yet a worrying indicator that the ability of local public authorities to maintain the quality of place, public amenities and public infrastructure to a level that at least meets or beats the visitor’s and indeed resident’s expectation are being undermined in many established destinations, by a combination of reduced funding and increased costs, particularly in those places where the principal local authority is also responsible for adult and children’s social care.
I would welcome views on whether the provision of public toilets remains as an important to the visitor economy as we once thought, for example, in our evidence to the 2008 Select Committee Inquiry on the provision of public toilets: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmcomloc/636/636.pdf written evidence commencing bottom page 112, specifics on demand at page 114.
Over tourism and tourism tax. The Guardian recently carried an interesting, well-balanced piece on “over tourism” including reference to “tourism tax” and the role of the sharing economy in facilitating uncontrolled development: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2018/aug/16/wish-you-werent-here-how-the-tourist-boom-and-selfies-are-threatening-britains-beauty-spots . These are all issues that we looking at and hopefully such articles will prompt others to consider the opportunities to positively influence development, rather than to have to deal with the consequence when it all just a little bit too late.
New scheme for sharing accommodation sector. The Evening Standard carried a short article announcing plans by the UK Short-Term Accommodation Association (UK STAA formed 2017) to offer Quality in Tourism’s safe clean and legal scheme to its members. The article’s primarily focus, like that of UK STAA, is on the sharing accommodation sector. The concept has the support of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/world-first-airbnb-sanction-scheme-aims-to-expose-rogue-landlords-a3913891.html
Online sales and the gig economy. There is increasing speculation in the financial pages that the Chancellor may be losing patience with the loss of revenue from the online sales and the often closely associated gig economy. It is suggested that there may be new taxes planned for online sales platforms for the Autumn budget. Published figures vary significantly, but for example, Amazon the largest player in this area is said to have paid only £1.7 m in tax in the UK on revenues of £2 bn and a corporation tax bill of £4.6 m on a profit of £72 m in 2017. The total value of UK sales was £8.8 bn with much of it apparently booked elsewhere.
The potential new taxes are said to be aimed at levelling the playing field between online and traditional High Street retail who carry the additional burdens including higher property rental costs, higher business rates and typically more/higher employment costs including, pension and NI payments. I suspect the hard-pressed traditional retail would much prefer to see their costs levelled downwards towards those of their online competitors. Personally, I also suspect it is far more about the realisation that the new business models are not just shifting how business is conducted but also how much government’s tax cut is and where the true value of the totality of the business done ultimately lodges. I hope I am wrong and that by making (all?) online businesses contribute more to the public purse, in taxes, social security contributions and pension provision we will see the traditional retail model begin to stabilise.