COUNCILS in Wales could be given powers to introduce region-specific tourism taxes.

In October finance secretary Mark Drakeford announced the Welsh Government was considering introducing one of four new taxes once new powers are devolved in April. Among these was a proposed tourism tax, which proved deeply controversial, with opposition parties claiming it could damage Wales' lucrative tourism sector.

And, speaking in the Assembly this afternoon, Mr Drakeford announced a proposed vacant land tax would instead be taken forward. But he refused to rule out a tourism tax or the other two suggested new rates - a levy to support social care or a disposable plastic tax.

Saying each of the four ideas had "important merits", Mr Drakeford said: "We have a responsibility to think more innovatively about tax, about how taxes operate, about their impact on people, businesses and communities, and how they interact with our wider policy objectives."

He added: "The work carried out over the last six months has shown how much tourism varies across Wales.

"I have concluded that a national tourism tax would not best reflect this breadth of local circumstances.

"We will now explore ways in which local authorities could be given permissive powers to develop and implement a local tourism tax.

"In carrying out that work, we will, of course, work with the tourism sector, the Welsh Local Government Association and interested parties to do this."

But Conservative shadow finance secretary and Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay pressed Mr Drakeford further on how a regional tourism tax would operate.

"I believe in local democracy and I think that there is merit in developing local taxes," he said. "Would the moneys raised locally from these taxes be ring-fenced for tourism in that sector? Would they be left totally with the local authorities? Would they be redistributed?"

Mr Drakeford replied: "If we are to take forward the idea on the basis of local discretion it would be clearly on the basis that money raised in that way is used to respond to the demands that tourists rightly make for proper facilities and for services on the ground, and to make those services even better so that people who come to Wales want to visit here many times again in the future."

Control over stamp duty and landfill tax will be devolved to Wales in April, and will be replaced with two new taxes, including a new Land Transaction Tax.

Control over income tax is due to be devolved in April 2019.