The Conservative Group on Birmingham City Council have today submitted their consultation response to Labour’s proposals for a charging Clean Air Zone, calling for an urgent rethink on plans which will see private vehicles charged up to £12.50 a day to travel inside the middle ring road. The consultation response highlights the devastating impact the proposals will have on some of the least well off in our city, as well as on businesses and jobs and residential streets on the zone’s peripheries.
Councillor Robert Alden said:
"The Conservative Group believe that there can be nothing more basic to a healthy environment than the air we breathe and are absolutely committed to improving the environment for this and future generations. The estimated 900 premature deaths a year from poor air quality in Birmingham are not something any of us should just accept which is why we have campaigned for a number of years on issues such as protecting our green open spaces and delivering a modern and efficient rapid transport system. However charging residents for driving in the City is not the answer and even Labour's own cabinet report highlighted that Labour's 'travel tax' will hit the least well off in society the most. At £12.50 a day Labour would be expecting residents to be able to fork out over £3000 a year and yet only a few weeks ago Labour claimed to electors there was no plan for charges.
We are clear that this is not a challenge we can shy away from but we are equally clear that we cannot punish those who acted in good faith by buying diesel vehicles under the encouragement of Gordon Brown, or vehicles that passed European laboratory tests that did not match up to real life conditions. Policies should be positive and not punitive, promoting behavioural change and technological advancement and not penalising those who have no choice.
Birmingham is not London, our public transport infrastructure is decades behind other modern European cities, meaning that alternatives to car use are not a viable option for enough people to even begin to justify a regressive charge. Indeed for some people, the nature of their work or their personal circumstance means they will always be reliant on car use meaning that unless they are able to afford to upgrade their vehicle they could be priced out of working in, or visiting Birmingham which will further undermine our ambition to compete on the world stage.
Fundamentally we believe that the proposals set out in the consultation are unfair, short sighted and lacking in ambition and innovation. They will be damaging for both residents and businesses and will simply move the problems of air quality to different parts of the City. Through this consultation response we call on Birmingham City Council to urgently rethink its plans, scrap the charge on private vehicles, reduce the size of the zone and the charges for commercial vehicles, and put in place more effective mechanisms to clean the air and positively promote behaviour changes, including support for small businesses."
The Conservative Group have also highlighted concerns with the lack of adequate consultation and the delays in publishing these plans, originally due in February, that now mean proposals are being rushed through. Councillor Tim Huxtable, Shadow Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment added:
“It is a disgrace that Labour failed to explain their plans to the electorate before May and are now trying to force them through with a woefully inadequate six week consultation over the school summer holidays. The proposals were originally due to be published in February and only pulled at the last minute, seemingly for political reasons. As local Labour MP Khalid Mahmood has said the plans are ‘amateurish’, they will do little to solve the actual problem with air pollution and in some areas will make it worse. If Labour do wish to push ahead with their myopic plans for a regressive tax on Birmingham residents and businesses then they should have the confidence to put their plans to a public vote.”
|CAZ consultation response FINAL.pdf||615.91 KB|