Mayors, Metro Mayors and City Leaders call for a cash injection into the Clean Air Fund.
A nationwide fight against the dirty air that is causing health, social and economic problems across the country is being stifled by a lack of funding at a local level, a cross-party group of leaders is warning.
Ahead of next week’s Budget, the 16 local and regional leaders – representing around 18.5 million people – have joined forces to call on Philip Hammond to find an extra £1.5bn of investment to boost the existing Clean Air Fund when he delivers his October 29 statement. The Clean Air Fund currently stands at just £220m.
Brought together by the UK100 Cities Network, the group includes Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Metro Mayors Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester), Steve Rotheram (Liverpool City Region) and Dan Jarvis (Sheffield City Region) alongside directly-elected mayors, council leaders or representatives from Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Southampton, Stockport and York.
Each has put their name to a joint letter to Mr Hammond warning: “As city leaders we are committed to playing our part in an ambitious national plan for clean air.
“However, funding committed by the Government to tackle air pollution is simply inadequate on three fronts; not enough funding for those local authority areas that the Government has identified as having the most severe air quality challenges, insufficient funding available for tackling the wider sources of air pollution and limited financial support for national measures.”
The letter – also copied to Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling – explains how the current Clean Air Fund is “now supporting many more cities than it was intended to” with an additional eight local authorities now having to develop hard-hitting air quality plans, according to Client Earth. This means up to 45 cities will now share the inadequate £220m Clean Air Fund, woefully insufficient for the scale of the challenge.
Polly Billington, Director of UK100, says: “It is clear the current Clean Air Fund, while welcome, is not sufficient to tackle the problem of air pollution, which is shortening and worsening lives, pressuring public services and damaging the economy.”
The leaders believe the £1.5bn injection is crucial to making the difference between success and failure in the fight against dirty air. However, in their letter they state this money must be matched by a targeted national vehicle renewal scheme prioritising the least well-off and small businesses. This would, they say, rid towns and cities of the most polluting vehicles through the delivery of Clean Air Zones alongside low emission taxis, cleaner buses, freight and shipping by replacement or retrofitting while also increasing active transport.
They also point to the industrial opportunity that a shift to electric vehicles offers them as the world is fast-adopting cleaner transport options. For example, China has set a target for electric or hybrid vehicles to make up a fifth of car sales by 2025 and in Norway over half of new car sales are either electric or hybrid.
The letter also quotes Public Health England’s warning of a potential £5.3bn NHS and social care burden from air pollution by 2035 and ends saying: “As local leaders we believe these measures together with action already being taken forward will set the country on course to bring our air quality to legal and safe standards.”
Polly Billington adds: “While we understand the Government has tough decisions to make on its spending priorities, the leaders are convinced acting now will enable the country to avoid the costs of ill-health and also enable us to shift to cleaner ways of travel, including boosting the manufacture and adoption of electric vehicles. This should be taken seriously as a public health crisis but also viewed as an industrial opportunity that requires investment.”
This latest letter follows a similar joint call by the group to Prime Minister Theresa May back in August calling for greater recognition of air pollution among Government funding and policy priorities. It came after the first-ever National Clean Air Summit in June where local leaders gathered together for the first time to discuss solving the country’s air pollution crisis. The event was jointly hosted by the Mayor of London, the UK100 Cities network and think tank IPPR.
The 16 cities/regions represented by signatures on the letter are: Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London; Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester; Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region; Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield City Region; Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester; Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council; Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority; Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council; Cllr Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council; Cllr Christopher Hammond, Leader of Southampton City Council; Cllr Alex Ganotis, Leader of Stockport Council and Greater Manchester Green City Region Lead; Cllr James Lewis, Deputy Leader, Executive Board Member for Resources and Sustainability, Leeds City Council; Cllr Andrew Waller, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for the Environment, City of York Council; Cllr James Noakes, Cabinet Member – Streetscene, Transport & Highways and Air Quality, Liverpool City Council and Cllr Sally Longford, Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment, Nottingham City Council.
In the letter, they also ask to help shape the key components of a Clean Air Bill in the proposed Clean Air and Environment Bill to give them new powers to tackle pollution, including from construction, buildings, transport, wood-burning and maritime sources. The proposed additional funding would, they say, provide a mechanism for local authorities and Mayors to effectively and quickly use any new powers.
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UK100 is a highly ambitious network of local government leaders, which seeks to devise and implement plans for the transition to clean energy that are ambitious, cost effective and take the public and business with them. It supports decision-makers in UK towns, cities and rural areas in their transition to 100% clean energy by 2050. It is the only network for UK local authorities focused solely on climate and clean energy policy. The leaders made the commitment as part of the momentum around the Paris Agreement in 2015, reflecting the leadership shown by mayors globally on climate change and clean energy. Turning those commitments into reality is the goal of the network. UK100 connects local leaders to each other, to business and to national government, enabling them to showcase their achievements and learn from each other. It enables them to speak collectively on how to accelerate the transition to clean energy locally and nationally.
 Government has blocked London from accessing the fund.