Greater Manchester mayor says this part of levy would disproportionately affect poor
Helen PiddTue 26 Feb 2019 16.39 GMT
The mayor of Greater Manchester has been accused of a “cop-out” after a decision to exempt private cars from a daily charge under which polluting vehicles will pay up to £100 a day to use roads in the region.
Andy Burnham asked the government for £116m to implement Greater Manchester’s plan, which includes a clean air zone designed to drastically reduce harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide by 2024.
Poor air quality contributes to the equivalent of 1,200 deaths a year in Greater Manchester, where 152 stretches of road will soon breach legal limits for concentrations of NO2 unless action is taken.
About 285,000 private cars licensed in Greater Manchester already breach air pollution limits, as do 2,000 buses, 9,000 minicabs, 2,000 taxis and 77 HGVs, according to research from the Greater Manchester combined authority.
From 2021, buses and HGVs made before 2013 will have to pay £100 a day to drive on any road in Greater Manchester apart from motorways. Older taxis and private hire vehicles will pay £7.50 each, and from 2023, vans and minibuses will also be charged £7.50.
But cars will be exempt after the GMCA decided levying a charge against private drivers would disproportionately affect poorer people who could not afford to upgrade their vehicles.
Alex Ganotis, the leader of Stockport council and lead for clean air, said: “Including private vehicles would have hit, disproportionately, our poorer communities.”
He added that private vehicles are idle for “more than 90% of the time, so we are also looking at intensity of use, not just volumes of vehicles”.
Ganotis said including private hire vehicles would necessitate a national scrappage scheme to help people trade in their old vehicles – something the government has ruled out.
Pete Abel from Manchester Friends of the Earth said: “Not including private vehicles in the clean air zone is a cop-out. Our children need us to take urgent action now – 2024 is too late.”
Burnham insisted the decision was not a political calculation designed to save him 285,000 votes. “In our judgment, it would have been disproportionate to hit people with often the least ability to change their car, when we know that these proposals can achieve compliance by 2024,” he said.
“We are obliged to consider the socioeconomic impact of our proposals and that’s what we’ve done. It’s important to stress that 80% of cars will be compliant by 2021, and that figure rises all of the time.”
At a press conference in Manchester on Tuesday, Burnham played a video filmed at St Ambrose primary school on Princess Parkway, one of the busiest and most polluted streets in Greater Manchester.
In it, the headteacher talked about being able to taste the pollution and lamented that she always had to keep the front-facing windows shut because the air was so dirty.
Burnham said he had never forgotten visiting the school. “A young lad with asthma told me that often he couldn’t play football outside with his mates because of the air pollution,” he said.