Birmingham’s controversial clean air zone should be extended across the West Midlands, according to a Conservative think-tank.
Although the move would hit motorists in the pocket, think tank Bright Blue says it’s needed to cut air pollution and stop people dying.
And the money raised could be used by councils to provide more charging points for electric cars, and help motorists replace high-pollution diesel vehicles.
Bright Blue researcher Eamonn Ives said: “Air pollution is a major danger to the health of individuals in the West Midlands. The evidence suggests that those living in the West Midlands experience higher levels of air pollution and worse consequences from it.
“Concern for air pollution in the West Midlands is widespread amongst the public, and many believe that not enough is being done to resolve it.”
Birmingham’s plans for a clean air zone mean drivers of older petrol and diesel cars. as well as taxis, lorries and buses, will pay between £6 and £10 to enter the city centre area from January 2020.
The city’s Labour council has been ordered to cut air pollution by the Government. However, Conservative councillors argue that charging motorists is not the way to do it.
Andy Street, the Conservative West Midlands Mayor, has backed the council, although he has criticised some details of the clean air zone scheme.
Bright Blue says in a new report that the clean air zone should be extended to “all relevant parts of the West Midlands Combined Authority”, which includes Coventry, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall, Wolverhmpton and Solihull as well as Birmingham.
It would mean charges were imposed in town and city centres across the region.
People on low incomes and people who need their vehicle, such as Blue Badge holders, should be exempt, as well as drivers of vehicles with cleaner engines.
The Combined Authority, which is chaired by the Mayor, should take control of the scheme, according to Bright Blue.
And the authority should be allowed to make a profit from the scheme to be used for a Local diesel scrappage scheme – allowing people to trade in diesel cars for low-pollution vehicles – or charging points for electric vehicles.
Bright Blue also said the Combined Authority should take responsibility for licensing taxis, and it should be allowed to charge more for a licence if a vehicle has high pollution levels.
According to the think tank, the action is needed because the West Midlands has worse air pollution than most other places.
The annual anthropogenic Particulate Matter (PM) reading in West Midlands Combined Authority councils is more than 12% higher than the average in councils across England as a whole.
Public Health England, an NHS body, estimated in 2014 that there were 1,460 excess deaths caused by excess particulate air pollution across the West Midlands Combined Authority.
And the Bright Blue report said: “Other data confirm that the West Midlands is experiencing a higher fraction of deaths attributable to air pollution on average than the rest of England.”
Mr Ives said: “Time for the Mayor to be bold. He should ensure that this region is not left behind London and lead the way in introducing new, ambitious transport policies to tackle air pollution in the West Midlands.
“People in the West Midlands need and deserve cleaner air urgently.”
Source : BirminghamMail