Why Liverpool Council rejected air quality charging scheme

Liverpool Council officials have explained why they rejected a charging system to improve air quality that has proved controversial in other major UK cities.

Back in 2018, the city was instructed by the Government to produce a Clean Air Plan (CAP) and its aim was to look at how air quality could be improved regarding levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) – all in “the shortest possible time.”

Among the options included introducing a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in which drivers of certain vehicles would be charged to use their cars in particular areas.

A senior official from Liverpool Council has revealed why he believes it was the right idea to convince Whitehall charging drivers was not the right fit for the city.

Last year, in neighbouring Greater Manchester, Mayor Andy Burnham hit the brakes on a proposed CAZ that would’ve required drivers to pay between £7.50 and £60 per day to move around the city region. Mr Burnham said he did so as issues following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic made it “inherently unfair.”

This was despite signage indicating the CAZ and enforcement cameras being put up in preparation. In London, city Mayor Sadiq Khan pushed ahead with plans to expand the ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ) into the wider boroughs.

Last July, Liverpool Council rejected the chance to introduce a similar scheme to that being rolled out in Manchester. The reasons for doing so were laid out during a meeting of the authority’s sustainable, safe and thriving neighbourhoods committee at the Town Hall.

Paul Farrell, operations manager at the city council, said, “It wouldn’t address air quality issues and would have a detrimental effect on those who couldn’t afford to pay it. We convinced the government it wasn’t the preferred option of the council.

“From an officer’s position, it’s technically not proven and it’s costly. The decision we have made is the correct one.”

Currently, six of eight areas being monitored for air quality have been deemed as operating at acceptable levels. Mr Farrell said £5.2m had been received from the UK government to conduct work on a clean air plan across the city, which included increased monitoring locations.

Of these locations, Walton Vale and Hunter Street remained in exceedance. Mr Farrell said further funding was required to bring the two locations in line and work was underway to secure the required financing from government.

He added how it was expected both sites would be in line with targets no later than 2026.

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