Revealed: City raises £33m from Clean Air Zone

Birmingham City Council’s Clean Air Zone has earned the council £33m for green projects and has led to a 53% drop in the number of polluting vehicles entering the city, LGC can reveal.

Birmingham’s scheme is the only clean air zone outside London to charge private car drivers and has paved the way for similar schemes to be introduced elsewhere. Bristol, Gateshead and Newcastle and Sefton are all among the regions currently preparing to introduce their own charging zones.

The zone was introduced to bring Birmingham’s pollution level down to legal limits. When launched in June 2021, the rate of non-compliant vehicles entering the zone was 18.7% and by December 2021 it had dropped to 10.3%. In May, it had fallen again to 8.8%.

Deputy head of council Brigid Jones (Lab) told LGC the figures are proof that “the message is getting through to Birmingham that if you have to use a [non compliant] car, so don’t bring it downtown”.

“Vehicle compliance is much more than we expected. Far fewer cars are billed than expected. In terms of pollution levels, it is effective,” she added.

Drivers pay £8 to drive in the zone if their cars, vans or taxis fail to meet emissions standards, with a £50 charge for HGVs and coaches. A non-compliant vehicle caught on camera whose driver has not paid the charge within six days receives a penalty of £120, which is halved if paid within 14 days.

Between June 2021 and March 2022, the scheme had generated £33m in revenue from daily fees and penalty notices, with £22m placed in council reserves to cover clean air projects already approved by its council. firm.

The total revenue from penalty notices for 2021-22 was £21million, which is more than the board expected it would earn from fines before the scheme was put in place.

An officer familiar with the scheme told LGC that some council members were concerned the scheme would be perceived locally as a “cash cow” for the authority, when the goal is to have fewer non-compliant vehicles, not to generate income.

“Birmingham has the M6 ​​corridor with a high level of polluted air around the city which makes it difficult for us, and that is why we had to take the route of this clean air zone to reduce our levels of air pollution. show,” he said.

Cllr Jones pointed out that £2 of each charge goes to the government to pay for the administration of the scheme, with the rest ‘spent locally on a scheme of projects to improve public transport and the public realm’.

“The fact that the program is administered by the government is tricky because when there are local problems, you can’t solve them locally – it has to be done nationally,” she said.

Legislation authorizing the creation of the system stipulates that any net surplus revenue generated must be used in local transport strategies and policies.

So far it has allocated £3.5m to buy 20 hydrogen buses with local bus companies, £8.5m for pedestrian and town center improvements, 8.5 additional £4 million for upgrades to University Station and Camp Hill Station, £4.2 million. for intercity bus projects and £4.1 million for the establishment of a Clean Air Fund to support local air quality initiatives in all areas of the city for two years.

A further £5.25million has been allocated to five transport and environment projects, including an expansion of the city’s bicycle scheme.

The council also announced that it had started trials of its first all-electric garbage truck which will operate in its Clean Air Zone until August 12, collecting trash and recycling materials from the city centre.

Clean air zones offered elsewhere

Bristol

Bristol City Council is introducing a clean air zone similar to Birmingham’s in November, with polluting older vehicles – including passenger cars – having to be charged at least £9 to enter a small city center area.

Newcastle and Gateshead

Proposals to phase in the Newcastle and Gateshead Clean Air Zone have been approved by both authorities, with charges for non-compliant taxis, buses and HGVs from January 2023 subject to approval by the government.

Private cars and motorcycles will not be charged.

Gateshead MBC said the non-compliant vans would not be charged until July 2023 due to “the nationwide shortage of LGV supply affecting the ability of small businesses to retrofit their vehicles”.

Drivers of non-compliant vehicles entering the zone will receive warning letters, along with details of financial support, from November.

Proposals for the soft launch have also been submitted to the government and councils await confirmation of ministerial approval.

liverpool

Liverpool City Council last week backed away from introducing a clean air zone, with its new clean air plan, which will be submitted to the government for approval next month, saying its problems of pollution would not be solved by a charging zone.

Sefton

Sefton has taken a step closer to introducing a Clean Air Zone with plans drawn up for a Clean Air Zone charging the worst polluting HGVs through an area which includes parts of the A565 and of the A5036.

Funding for relevant local businesses to mitigate the cost of charges is also being considered as part of the plans.

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