Conservatives Call For Ministerial intervention on Clean Air Tax

Greater Manchester Conservative MPs are calling upon Environment Secretary George Eustice to work with local council leaders to pause the rollout of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone, to give an opportunity for a radical reform to meet local needs.

The MPs have now written a letter to the Minister expressing their concerns over the scheme (attached).

Commenting on the plans, Bolton West MP, Chris Green said: “As the date for implementation of the clean air zone approaches, businesses and other organisations are becoming increasingly concerned with inherent problems in this scheme as well as insufficient funding to cover business costs of replacing fleets of vehicles. These existing problems are obviously compounded by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.”

FSB Development Manager for Greater Manchester, Robert Downes, said: “We very much welcome today’s announcement, that hopefully indicates the relevant authorities in GM have at last woken up to the fact their plans to introduce a CAZ need a major rethink. I don’t want to pre-empt any decision the mayor and the council leaders come to next week, but if this is the case it’s a victory for common sense.

“However, the massive backlash we have seen from our small business community this week comes as no surprise to the FSB – nor should it to the policy makers in charge of the CAZ who were well aware of the existing scheme’s many shortcomings, particularly around lack of funding and poor levels of awareness among affected businesses. The latter point has now been addressed, and the result has seen an explosion of anger. 

“In December 2020, we wrote to every council in GM warning the CAZ in the format proposed, with the pandemic as a back drop, would be extremely damaging for businesses, and needed to be paused and taken back to the drawing board, not least until the full effects of Covid on the regional economy and the businesses that operate here were fully understood.

“Ignoring those warnings has now led to an unnecessary show down between the small business community and local political leaders, at a time when most small firms need to be concentrating on recovery from Covid. I hope this can now lead to meaningful, two way discussion in future for anything CAZ related.

“But we reiterate today that in the current climate, because of Covid and the economic fallout it has triggered still very much being an underlying factor, the Clean Air Zone is untenable in its current format. The sheer size of the scheme is uncalled for, the pollution modelling data on which it’s been based and sold is meaningless and out of date, and the financial agreement with Government should never have been signed off last summer. 

“If the CAZ is to go ahead, discussions around the financial scheme must be reopened with the relevant ministers, and if a satisfactory settlement cannot be agreed, then the mayor should say the no to the scheme.

“Sadly, we know there are already business that have ceased trading because the CAZ looked unstoppable. We can’t bring them back, but GM’s decision makers can help many, many thousands of others stay afloat by coming up with a Plan B for the CAZ, and ensuring any future scheme is fair, proportionate and workable for everyone.”

Leave a comment