‘An alternative needs to be explored’: Boris Johnson calls for Clean Air Zone rethink


Boris Johnson says he wants to see plans for Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone put on hold to avoid ‘stuffing up businesses’.

During a visit to Middleton this afternoon (February 3), the Prime Minister told the Manchester Evening News an announcement on the contentious charging scheme’s future would be made by the government ‘very soon’.

It comes on a day which has seen hundreds of taxi drivers protest against the proposals, while Mayor Andy Burnham has urged the government to ‘take the politics out’ of the situation and work together on a solution.

READ MORE: Under-fire Andy Burnham vows to END Clean Air Zone ‘the minute it can be’

While saying he did not ‘want to preempt’ any decision the government makes about the Clean Air Zone, which in its current guise would see the most polluting vehicles pay £60 a day, Mr Johnson admitted the plans must be reconsidered.

He said: “They’re good in the sense that you need ways of reducing emissions, but if you’re going to do something like a Clean Air Zone, you’ve got to time it right.

Mr Johnson with students at Hopwood Hall College

“You can’t put it in, in a way that is going to crush business – particularly small business – making it impossible for people to use their vans, for white vans to be able to get into the town or city centre. And you can’t penalize people in such a way to do serious economic harm.

“Our view is that the way it’s being framed at the moment in Greater Manchester is not getting the balance right. We think it will be economically damaging and we think that an alternative model needs to be explored.

“I think there should be a moratorium and I think our minister is going to have a look at it.”

Asked how quickly Greater Manchester could expect an announcement, Mr Johnson said it would come ‘very soon’.

See also  Confidence: Who believes the official version? We no longer trust anyone | Ideas

He says that in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the situation with the Clean Air Zone is similar to one he faced while mayor of London, when he shelved plans for a low emissions zone in 2008-09 while the country grappled with the financial crash .

He went on to approve the capital’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone in 2015 before its implementation in 2020.

Mr Johnson explores the Hopwood Hall technology center
Mr Johnson explores the Hopwood Hall technology center

The Prime Minister has found himself in a war of words with Mr Burnham in the past couple of days over who is to blame for the current Clean Air Zone plans in Greater Manchester.

After James Grundy, Conservative MP for Leigh, labeled it a ‘disastrous Labor scheme’ during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson agreed – telling MPs: “The scheme proposed by the Labor mayor in Manchester is completely unworkable.”

Mr Burnham hit back in a press conference on Wednesday evening, where he insisted the government’s directive placed on all 10 of the region’s councils to clean up their air by 2024 meant charging was necessary.

The mayor has called for that date to be moved to 2027, arguing charging would no longer be necessary as vehicle emissions would be reduced by that point, and told both BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Manchester this morning that the decision now rests with the government .

Chris Clarkson, Conservative MP for Heywood and Middleton, joined Mr Johnson at Hopwood Hall College – where they met staff and students before speaking to the MEN

He criticized the Labor mayor – insisting the current Clean Air Zone plans were ‘presented to the government’ by Mr Burnham, who agreed to it before ‘it turned out people didn’t like it’.

Chris Clarkson with Boris Johnson at Hopwood Hall
Chris Clarkson with Boris Johnson at Hopwood Hall

Mr Clarkson said: “He’s not willing to change his mind or admit that he got it wrong, so we spoke to the Environment Secretary, we’ve spoken to the Prime Minister and we’ve said ‘can we have some common sense here?

See also  Digital ad tax argued in Maryland federal court case

“We need a pause while people have a chance to actually reflect on this and give a real opinion.”

Mr Clarkson hinted that the scheme should focus on specific areas where air quality breaches legal limits, rather than the current region-wide approach.

He added: “Nobody is against having clean air, and we know there’s a Supreme Court judgment that says the air here is not good enough to breathe.

“But we know it’s focused on certain areas – your junction 19s, your junction 13s, the city center – it’s not 493 sq miles [of bad air quality].”

Under-fire Mr Burnham told BBC Radio Manchester this morning that the Clean Air Zone would be temporary ‘to last as long we get to legal compliance with air limits’, and that the cameras could become used by Greater Manchester Police.

Facing a barrage of calls on the Mike Sweeney programme, he also suggested the Conservatives’ version of events regarding who was to blame for the scheme was an ‘untruth’.

He added: “I hope a solution is now in sight. The ball is in the government’s court – but I say that not to be provocative.

“I just hope that they play that ball back to us in the spirit in which I put it in their court, which was to work with us to get this right.

“Playing politics with it will get us absolutely nowhere. Get a solution that cleans up the air, protects people’s jobs, livelihoods and businesses.

“They can do that – I’m expecting them to get back in touch with me any day now, because the Environment Secretary said to me he would get back in seven to 10 days, and that was eight days ago now.”

See also  Super Bowl halftime show live: Updates as Eminem and Kendrick Lamar to perform during Cincinnati Bengals vs Los Angeles Rams game

Mr Johnson stopped off in Middleton as one of a number of visits across the country, following the release of the government’s ‘levelling up’ white paper yesterday.

Mr Johnson with a Hopwood Hall student
Mr Johnson with a Hopwood Hall student

Asked why it had taken 12 years for a Conservative-led government to look at the issue, Mr Johnson insisted his government would be more ‘revolutionary’ than those led by his predecessors in its attempts to resolve the country’s ‘wildly imbalanced economy’.

However, he claimed private sector investment would also be key to the vision, insisting that the government could not simply ‘shovel taxpayers’ money’.

The visit also came as the UK’s fuel price cap saw a record hike of £693 – while the Bank of England lifted interest rates to 0.5%.

As Mr Johnson was away from Westminster, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £9.1 billion package of measures to support people facing bill increases.

Customers will receive £200 towards the cost of their energy bills, although it will be paid back to the government in five £40 installations over the next five years, while households in Band A to D properties will receive a £150 council tax rebate in April.

However, bill payers will still have to meet the additional added costs to their energy bills, while no further measures have been announced in case energy prices remain high or arise further.

Mr Johnson said he wanted to tackle long-term inflation by ‘fixing energy supply’ and focusing on a high-wage, high-skilled economy.

Asked if further measures could be implemented to support families if energy prices stay high or increase, he added: “ We will watch it very closely.

“But I’m sure most people will appreciate £9.1 billion is a lot of money, it’s several p on income tax, it’s a huge commitment.”

Get more news, sport and what’s on straight to your email inbox by subscribing to the Manchester Evening News’ free newsletters here.




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

Related Posts

George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.