Leeds to support taxi drivers in meeting CAZ standards

Leeds city council is considering offering taxi and private-hire drivers incentives of up to £3,000 to switch to electric models as well as possible loans of up to £10,000 for vehicles that meet the requirements of its proposed Clean Air Zone.

Details of the proposed support package for drivers were outlined at a meeting of the council’s Licensing Committee on Tuesday (6 November) – and will be dependent on financial support from the government through its air quality fund.

Leeds proposals include the introduction of a ‘category B’ clean air zone in the city centre, alongside stricter requirements for the registration of taxis in the city

The city council has been instructed by government to submit proposals to address exceedances of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution limits on roads within the city, with plans to establish a ‘Class B’ charging Clean Air Zone on the table (see airqualitynews.com story). This would cover HGVs, buses, coaches and private hire vehicles.

For the taxi and private hire sector, vehicles will need to be either petrol hybrid, electric or petrol Euro 5/6 with an LPG conversion to avoid incurring a charge of £50 per week or £12.50 per day for drivers licenced within the city, and £12.50 per day for those coming from outside of Leeds.

Some exemptions have been put forward by the city council that would delay the date that some of the city’s private hire and taxi drivers would have to comply with the requirements, in order to lessen the strain on the city’s taxi operators.

Financial support

In documents published ahead of Tuesday’s meeting the authority acknowledged that there is a ‘clear requirement’ to provide financial support to the sector in upgrading vehicles.

Proposed boundaries for Leeds’ charging CAZ

The report noted: “Analysis of the demographic of drivers in this sector clearly indicate that they are typical [sic] from areas of social deprivation and often are on lower than average incomes. This means that many such drivers face barriers to accessing finance, or raising capital even if future fuel savings are available.”

In order to support the city’s drivers, the authority has put together a planned package of grants and a loan scheme that it is hoped would provide financial aid to drivers wishing to switch to compliant vehicles.

For drivers considering switching to a fully-electric model, up to £3,000 could be available as a grant, while drivers wishing to switch to a full hybrid vehicle may have access to up to £1,500.

A further interest free loan scheme has also been proposed to offer drivers support in switching to a compliant vehicles, with a maximum value of £10,000 to be paid out, and repaid over the course of four years. Up to 2,400 applications are expected to be received through the scheme, and drivers could be able to apply for a grant and a loan depending on the vehicle they are proposing to purchase.

Funding

The city council is requesting £27 million in funding from the government’s £220 million Clean Air Fund to supportthese measures. This is in addition to £13 million from the government’s £255 million Implementation Fund to cover costs associated with the infrastructure and operation of the zone.

As many as 2,400 applications are expected through the city’s support scheme

The report notes: “Significant concern has been raised by those impacted about the financial impact on their businesses because in many cases, they will need to replace their vehicles earlier than they would have planned and customers driving non-compliant vehicles may also choose to take their business elsewhere.

“Not only would this adversely affect the concerned business, there are potential ramifications for the economic performance of the City. For this reason the council is asking for £27 million from the government’s Clean Air Fund to provide mitigation assistance to the sectors that are impacted.”

Leeds Clean Air Zone plans are due to be considered by ministers before approval – with a likely implementation date of January 2020.