City leaders from major cities across the UK have issued a plea to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to increase funding to tackle air pollution.
In a letter sent this weekend, following on from the National Clean Air Summit in London in June, city leaders including the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis and Birmingham city council Mayor Councillor Ian Ward, have backed a series of measures aimed at improving air quality across the country.
Among these, the letter calls for increased access to funding to support the delivery of Clean Air Zones and to fund investment in cleaner buses and taxis, as well as improvements in walking and cycling infrastructure.
The group of 17 cities and regions has also called for the introduction of a targeted ‘vehicle renewal scheme’ to replace older polluting vehicles as well as a national retrofit programme for coaches and HGVs, mirroring the government’s clean bus fund.
Finally the political leaders have also backed the introduction of a new Clean Air Act, which would enshrine World Health Organization air quality guideline pollution limits into UK law.
“The Act should also grant local and regional authorities the powers and resources they need including allowing licensing authorities to better regulate taxi and private hire services operating in their area to ensure high safety, emissions and environmental standards,” the letter suggests.
The 17 cities/regions represented by signatures on the letter include Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Greater London, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Liverpool City Region, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Sheffield City Region, Southampton and Stockport.
Writing in the letter, the group states: “As city leaders we are committed to playing our part in an ambitious national plan for clean air that prioritises action to reduce road transport emissions, provides new powers to tackle other sources of pollution and creates a framework to support partnerships between local, regional and national government and its agencies, including Highways England, and business.
“This plan must ensure that local action is adequately supported by activity across government to tackle air pollution.”
At the June Summit, the leaders also met Environment Secretary Michael Gove to discuss the future actions they hoped Ministers across government would support to help improve air quality.
The event was jointly hosted by the Mayor of London, the UK100 Cities network and think tank IPPR.
The letter has also been copied to Mr Gove, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire.
Commenting on the letter, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Thousands of people across our city and country are suffering from toxic air. London stands side by side with every city in the UK battling to tackle air so lethal it shortens lives and harms the lungs of our children. The Government are now waking up to the scale of this national health crisis and it’s our responsibility as city leaders from across England and Wales to demand they take immediate action.
“We urgently need a new Clean Air and Environment Act and robust new powers and resources for cities to get to grips with local pollution. The only way we can rid our streets of the dirtiest diesel engines is by ministers introducing a targeted national vehicle renewal scheme. If Michael Gove can work with us on these much-needed measures then we will finally be able to clean up our illegal air once and for all.”