Mayor Burnham reports on government talks over Clean Air Scheme concerns

Andy Burnham

Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has held meetings with the Government over the call to postpone the introduction of the region’s clean air zone legislation.

It follows fears that many businesses will be unable to afford new, or upgraded, vehicles to comply with the strict emissions levels as part of the scheme.

This is due to increasing costs of second-hand vehicles, and dwindling supplies of vehicles because of the ongoing computer chip shortages which are impact car production levels.

At today’s (January 28) Combined Authority meeting in Leigh, Mr Burnham said: “I met with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Wednesday as only he can enable a review, variation or withdrawal of the Clean Air Scheme.

“We are all committed to improving air quality and the health of our residents, but we also recognise that major changes are needed to the current scheme.

“I asked the Secretary of State to consider all options, in particular to lift the Government’s legal direction on all 10 Greater Manchester councils to provide more time for us to achieve compliance.

“This is because as we have previously articulated we fear the current scheme may not be successful in achieving compliance by 2024, but will cause real hardship to many businesses in Greater Manchester as a result of recent changes to the supply chain and cost inflation.”

He said further meetings are planned, which could take place in the next week or two.

A report to the Greater Manchester Air Quality Administration Committee last week set out evidence that global supply chain issues could increase the costs and reduce availability of cleaner vehicles.

It said more work is needed to understand whether this could create significant financial hardship for commercial vehicle users – already facing fuel and cost of living increases on top of the impact of the pandemic.

Greater Manchester secured £120m in government funding towards upgrading non-compliant commercial vehicles, but government did not agree to provide additional hardship funding.

The first phase of the Clean Air Zone is due to launch in May 2022 and applies to buses, coaches, HGVs and taxi and private hire vehicles which are not registered in Greater Manchester.