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PM labels Manchester clean air zone “completely unworkable”

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The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has told MPs that Greater Manchester’s clean air zone (CAZ) is “completely unworkable” and will “damage” local businesses.

Johnson was asked by local MP James Grundy to intervene in the scheme at PMQs in Parliament yesterday (Wednesday, February 2).   

Grundy said: "The Greater Manchester mayoral clean air zone scheme, effectively a congestion charge affecting all 500 square miles of Greater Manchester, including my constituents in Leigh, is a job-destroying tax on ordinary workers.

"We all want clean air, but the model proposed by Mayor (Andy) Burnham is unworkable and economically devastating with charges of £60 per day, per lorry driver.

“Will the PM intervene to prevent Mayor Burnham from inflicting this disastrous Labour scheme on Greater Manchester?"

In response, Johnson said: "I know from my own experience how vital it is when you're trying to clean up air in a great city that you do not unjustly penalise business and small business and it's become clear that the scheme proposed by the Labour mayor in Manchester is completely unworkable, would do more damage to businesses and residents in Manchester.

He added: "The Secretary of State for the Environment will be saying more about this in the coming days."

The Government has been calling on local authorities to introduce CAZs since the UK's highest court, the Supreme Court, ordered ministers in 2015 to take immediate action to cut air pollution

A ‘Category C’ charging clean air zone (CAZ) covering Greater Manchester is due to be launched from May 30, and will operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Non-compliant coaches and HGVs will be charged £60 to enter the zone, and taxis and private hire vehicles £7.50, with a temporary exemption for Greater Manchester-licensed vehicles until May 31, 2023.

Older vans and minibuses will also get an exemption until the same date but will be charged £10 thereafter.

Charges will be based on vehicles meeting certain emission standards – Euro6/VI or better for diesel engines, and Euro4 or better for petrol.

Last month, Burnham asked the Government to pause funding to upgrade vans, taxis, coaches and minibuses to cleaner models, with operators unable to access new vehicles and record prices in the used market.

He said that Greater Manchester's leaders had "repeatedly raised concerns" about the level of funding being offered to help people upgrade vehicles.

He added that he was "not and have never been the instigator nor the final decision maker in this scheme" and the government had "initiated it".

The region had secured £120 million in Government funding to help fleets upgrade to cleaner, compliant vehicles, with applications for HGVs opening in November, last year.

It had earmarked £87.9m for its Clean Commercial Vehicle Fund to upgrade vans, HGVs, coaches and minibuses, and £21.4m through the Clean Taxi Fund for GM-licensed taxi and private hire vehicle owners, drivers and operators to switch to cleaner vehicles.

Burnham has asked the environment secretary to delay full implementation of the scheme until 2027, which he said would "provide the opportunity to make significant changes... to allow supply chain issues and market conditions to stabilise whilst finding more effective ways to achieve compliance".

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