The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) sent the new Clean Air Policy back to the government on January 20 in the hope of more funding.
The Clean Air Policy was made by the GMCA in response to the amount of NO2 pollution in areas of Manchester including Oxford Road and Wimslow Road. To rectify these levels the GMCA were going to fine vehicles that weren’t pollution controlled, however, they did not want to unfairly cause problems to local businesses and working classes, so they asked the government for funding for vehicle owners to upgrade their vehicles.
The government, however, has rejected this request saying that the GMCA will have to change their policy and no more funding will be provided. Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, has now responded, calling out the Conservative party.
Burnham’s initial plan, which has now been rejected, was to provide funds to allow people to upgrade their vehicles to one which matched the new emissions standards. Once these upgrades were made, the council would fine people who do not abide by the new standards.
The government has asked the GMCA for more “evidence” to justify the revised plan. As a result, the policy has effectively been put on hold until the summer of 2022. Yet controversy has ensued. During PMQs, Boris Johnson said that Burnham’s policy was going to do “damage to businesses and residents”. He added that the fines would unjustly penalise the residents of Manchester for not being able to comply with the guidelines in such a short span of time. This seemed to frustrate Burnham, who criticised the government for setting a goal for net zero emissions by 2024 straight after a pandemic, calling the plan “unworkable”.
Meanwhile, Burnham has been working with the Environment Secretary, and asked that the plan be pushed back to 2026 instead of 2024. This has been accepted, but again not without criticism from the government, who imply that the Labour mayor is pushing it back on purpose. Burnham has responded saying that whilst many would be happy with the policy being scrapped and reworked completely, he “cannot accept a situation where we leave some of our residents exposed to illegal air pollution.”
After Jake Berry, the Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen in Lancashire, criticised the policy, saying it would be challenging for the bus services in his constituency to afford the fines, Burnham shot back, instead drawing attention to the government’s refusal to increase funding to allow people to upgrade their vehicles.
Burnham further explained that the government had asked the GMCA to make the plan during the pandemic, and there is an “inflation” in the vehicle market, that the government is not accounting for. Burnham went on to talk about the “dishonesty of the modern Conservative party”. He ended saying, “you impose this directive on clean air and you all come out saying scrap the clean air zone. It’s the dishonesty of the modern Conservative party playing for the Trump Handbook.”