15 of GM's Labour MPs write to government about need for 'meaningful Clean Air Zone discussions'

Date published: 27 January 2022

Fifteen Labour MPs, including Rochdale’s Sir Tony Lloyd, have written to the government about the need for “meaningful discussions” about the Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester.

They have called on the government to offer greater support to those facing “financial anxiety” over the implementation of the Clean Air Zone from 30 May 2022.

The government has provided £120m to help eligible drivers in Greater Manchester switch to compliant vehicles.

But MPs say that since the plan was agreed, the cost of upgrading a vehicle has risen “by as much as 60% because of inflation and supply chain issues.”

Earlier this month, Greater Manchester asked the government to pause the next phase of the financial support scheme, which had been due to open at the end of January. This included funding for private hire vehicles, hackney carriages, coaches and minibuses and light goods vehicles – some of which will be exempt from the charges until 2023.

Five-years in the making, the ‘CAZ’ has been drawn up by local leaders to combat illegally high pollution levels across the conurbation.

The largest scheme of its type in the country, the first phase – introduced from May this year – will see the most polluting lorries, buses and coaches charged £60 a day to drive in Greater Manchester.

The second phase, due a year later, would charge non-compliant vans £10 a day and taxis and private hire vehicles £7.50. It does not apply to private cars.

In a letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the MPs say the secretary of state must “engage in discussion with Mayor Andy Burnham and the leaders of the ten local authorities as a matter of urgency to bring about changes to make the scheme fair for everyone.”

They said: “Whilst we fully support measures to improve air quality, we appreciate that the introduction of the CAZ presents a major challenge for many individuals and businesses, particularly small businesses and sole traders.

“A Clean Air Zone will only improve air quality if individuals and businesses can access the financial support needed to upgrade their vehicles to be compliant with legal emissions standards.”

They say that the increased cost of upgrading is “likely to impact on the ability of individuals and businesses to upgrade their vehicles and we have concerns about whether the agreed level of funding is now sufficient.”

They added that "numerous constituents" had contacted them and "documented their financial anxiety because of the implications of the CAZ.”

The Greater Manchester plan cannot be amended or suspended without permission from the secretary of state.

In a statement to the BBC, a Defra spokesman said air pollution was "a public health risk, particularly to the most vulnerable".

"At a national level, it has reduced significantly since 2010, but we know there is more to do," he said.

"Decisions around the introduction of CAZs remain the responsibility of local councils, in consultation with residents and local businesses.

"We have agreed to consider further funding requirements for Manchester subject to evidence of need once the support schemes are actually operational."

A spokesperson for the Mayor of Greater Manchester said on Wednesday (26 January): "The Mayor of Greater Manchester has had a constructive meeting with the Environment Secretary following the decision of Greater Manchester Councils to refer the current Clean Air Zone back to the government. 

"The Mayor relayed his view, and that of the ten council leaders, that major changes are needed to the scheme to protect businesses and jobs in light of the new emerging evidence about problems in the vehicle market. 

"The Secretary of State agreed to meet again with the Mayor in the next 7-10 days to agree a way forward." 

Reporting: Rochdale Online News

Additional reporting: the Local Democracy Reporting Service

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