The Mayor of Greater Manchester and Greater Manchester Green City-region lead have both called for an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for the Environment after the government has failed to support the region’s clean air plans.
Andy Burnham and Councillor Andrew Western want the meeting because ministers haven’t allocated the necessary funding to help small businesses switch to clean vehicles, and are now vulnerable to a ‘clean air tax’.
Greater Manchester submitted its plans for a Clean Air Zone earlier this year which covers the region’s 10 boroughs; this involved a request to help small businesses switch to cleaner vehicles.
However, despite funding from the government for businesses in London to change vehicles, this has not been the case in Greater Manchester.
Instead, those councils in Greater Manchester have been given instructions from government ministers to accelerate plans to include vans in Clean Air Zone by two years; under these plans, small businesses that aren’t compliant will have to pay a daily charge 18 months from now, rather than in 2023, as set out by the city region.
As part of the clean air plans, Greater Manchester had requested £116 million of clean vehicle funding to assist local businesses in upgrading their vehicles, which in turn would avoid any penalty for travelling through the Clean Air Zone.
This included £59 million for HGVs and vans, and a £29 million Clean Bus Fund.
The government though, has not committed to these clean air plans and has instead offered £36 million to create the network of cameras that would issue fines to those in breach.
Andy Burnham 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.
“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.”