Greater Manchester has been instructed to start charging Euro 5 and older vans from 2021 – less than 18 months away – rather than the original date of 2023, under its Clean Air Zone plans.
Although the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) submitted plans earlier this year for a Clean Air Zone – which would charge the most polluting buses, non-compliant HGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles in the zone from 2021 and expand this to non-compliant vans by 2023, the 10 local councils have now received a ministerial instruction to accelerate the plans for vans by two years.
The earlier burden on local businesses is being exacerbated by the failure of ministers to provide funding to help firms switch to cleaner vehicles. Although the plans submitted by GMCA called for partnership funding to help taxi firms and small businesses switch to cleaner vehicles, no scrappage deal funding has been offered – despite the fact that ministers have provided funding to London to help people change vehicles for the London ULEZ.
The £116m requested by Greater Manchester to help local businesses upgrade vehicles had included a £59m Clean Freight Fund for upgrading HGVs and vans, a £29m Clean Bus Fund to support a switch to a greener bus and coach fleet in the city-region, and a £28m Clean Taxi Fund to enable a move to compliant hackney cabs and private hire vehicles.
But after taking three months to respond, the Government is only offering £36m ring-fenced to create a network of cameras that would issue fines to those in breach.
And there are even suggestions that private cars could now be included in the plans.
In response, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and Greater Manchester Green City-region lead, Councillor Andrew Western, are today calling for an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for the Environment.
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.”
Councillor Andrew Western added: “Our proposals are clearly designed to take the dirtiest vehicles off our streets as quickly as possible. We don’t want people who have no choice but to stick with their polluting vehicle in the short term paying a daily penalty. But, by demanding that Greater Manchester bring forward the implementation of a Clean Air Zone affecting non-compliant vans by two years, that’s exactly what the ministerial instruction would do. It’s counter-productive.”
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has also slammed the Government’s actions. Mags Simpson, FTA’s head of policy for Northern England, said: “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.”