Government proposals to make councils and City Hall pay EU fines for breaching air quality standards have been condemned as “unfair” by one of London’s most senior councillors.
Ealing council leader Julian Bell warned that making local government responsible for the fines would be “counterproductive” as it would divert cash from schemes aimed at cleaning up London’s air.
Councillor Bell, who chairs the Transport and Environment Committee at London Councils, the body representing all local authorities in the capital, made his remarks at a Mansion House reception marking the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act.
He used the event to urge Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to speed up plans for an Ultra Low Emission Zone and introduce it earlier than the proposed 2020 start date. The Zone would require drivers of polluting vehicles to pay a daily fine to drive within central London.
Cllr Bell also called on the Mayor to expand the scheme so that it covered a wider area. Environmental and air quality campaigners have criticised the scheme, which would cover around 7% of the capital, for being “too small” to make a meaningful difference.
Addressing the same event, Mayor Johnson said London’s boroughs and City Hall were bringing forward schemes that would get the city two-thirds towards meeting pollution limits but called on ministers to do their bit.
He called on the government to award London “the lion’s share of funding available for low emission vehicles” which he said could fund up to 200,000 cleaner vehicles, including 7,000 “zero emission capable taxis” and 1,600 greener buses.
The evening’s host, Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf, said the City of London corporation was “committed to playing its part” in cleaning up air quality by working with neighbouring boroughs and urging businesses based in the city “to reduce their impact on London’s air quality”.