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Chancellor urged to increase spending on air quality

Political leaders from 16 cities and regions across the country are calling for the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, to increase spending on measures to improve air quality ahead of the Budget next week.

High profile city leaders including the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, have signed a joint letter alongside the campaign group UK 100 calling for the Chancellor to beef up the government’s Clean Air Fund, in order to finance projects aimed at tackling air pollution.

Local government leaders including (l-r): Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, Liverpool City Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram, and Sheffield City Region Mayor, Dan Jarvis, have signed the letter to the Chancellor

The £220 million fund, which will be financed partly through changes in Vehicle Excise Duty, was announced in March (see airqualitynews.com story) and is aimed at financing projects outside of London designed to improve air quality.

Initiatives that could be supported through the fund include changes to road layouts, enhanced cycling or walking infrastructure, vehicle retrofit schemes, or local scrappage schemes to remove polluting vehicles from the road.

But, city leaders have claimed that the funding will not be sufficient to tackle air pollution challenges faced by local authorities across the country. Up to 45 councils are likely to be bidding for a share of the funding, the group claimed.

‘Committed’

The letter states: “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.â€?

City leaders are instead calling for an enhanced pot of £1.5 billion to be made available – prioritising funding for a national vehicle renewal scheme as well as investment in low emission taxis, alongside cleaner buses and freight transport.

Funding should be made available for a national vehicle renewal scheme, the city leaders have claimed

Commenting on the letter, 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.â€?

She added: “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.â€?

The full list of signatories to the letter 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.

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