Play fair on clean air, government warned


Leaders in Greater Manchester have warned that the government’s failure to back Greater Manchester’s clean air proposals with fair funding could put jobs and businesses at risk.

Greater Manchester submitted detailed plans for a Clean Air Zone covering all 10 boroughs in the region earlier this year, requesting partnership funding to help taxi firms and small businesses switch to cleaner vehicles. Despite the fact that ministers have provided funding to London to help people change vehicles, no such help has been offered to Greater Manchester.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority claims that, instead, the 10 local councils that make up the authority have received a ministerial instruction to accelerate by two years plans to include vans in Clean Air Zone. The instruction to include vans at an earlier date would see small businesses using non-compliant vans paying a daily charge 18 months from now, rather than the city-region’s proposed timeframe of 2023.

Greater Manchester had requested £116 million of clean vehicle funding to help local businesses upgrade to clean vehicles and thereby avoid any penalty for travelling through the Clean Air Zone. This included: a £59 million Clean Freight Fund, for upgrading HGVs and vans; a £29 million Clean Bus Fund to support a switch to a greener bus and coach fleet in the city-region; and a £28 million Clean Taxi Fund, for a move to compliant hackney cabs and private hire vehicles.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Greater Manchester stands ready to move at pace to clean up our polluted air and work in partnership with the government. But it would be unfair to ask Greater Manchester to do this alone and to fund the change by fines on small businesses. Taxi drivers in the city have been calling on us to ‘play fair on clean air’. We hear that call and want to help people switch. We don’t want to see a single job or business threatened by the process of cleaning up our air. But we can’t guarantee this without help from the Government.

“That’s why we’re backing their call. Our message to the government is clear: give Greater Manchester the funds we need to clean up our air and don’t impose a ‘clean air tax’ on our businesses. Give Greater Manchester the same support as London and play fair on clean air.”

Mags Simpson, head of Policy for Northern England at the Freight Transport Association, said: “While the logistics sector is fully committed to reducing vehicle emissions wherever possible and acknowledges the role the industry must play in improving the air quality of our cities, allowing only 18 months in which Manchester’s van operators must become compliant before the introduction of the authority’s Clean Air Zone is simply an additional tax on the area’s small businesses.  

“The original proposals placed before government allowed time for vehicles to be replaced or upgraded but the new plan outlined today will force operators into acquiring costly new vehicles ahead of their standard replacement cycle or into a regime of punitive daily charges.  It is essential that an air quality scheme for Greater Manchester is developed with the needs of businesses that serve the area in mind, not one which drives up operating costs for small businesses and unfairly penalises the hardworking individuals and businesses which keep Greater Manchester’s economy thriving.”