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Burnham: Clean air zone is not stealth tax; not a congestion charge, insists mayor.

Byline: JAMES ILLINGWORTH

PROPOSALS for a clean air zone across Greater Manchester have been backed as city-region leaders hit back at "stealth tax" criticism.

The combined authority on Friday approved outline plans to tackle lethal levels of nitrogen dioxide by introducing charges for commercial vehicles. Mayor Andy Burnham reiterated that the move is not a congestion charge, adding that the issue is one of "health inequality".

According to an outline business case revealed this week, high-polluting buses, lorries and taxis will face daily charges from 2021. Fees for vans will follow in 2023, in what will be the largest clean air zone outside of London. Speaking at a meeting of the combined authority, Mr Burnham said: "This is a health issue and a matter of health injustice and inequality. It's those in our most poor communities breathing in the most polluted air.

"The idea that we allow a situation that a postcode area that our kids are born in determines their health in later life is somehow all right, well, it isn't. We need to somehow break that link as soon as we can."

The proposals, which will be subject to a series of consultations before a full case is submitted to Government later this year, is reliant on a PS116m funding package from Westminster.

This will enable businesses and selfemployed drivers of the most polluting vehicles to upgrade or exchange to avoid the charges.

Stockport council leader and the city region's lead on the clean air plans, Alex Ganotis, responded to criticism levelled by a bus company that the clean air zone will impose "nothing short of a stealth tax on passengers".

He said the plans would be implemented in a "socially inclusive way", adding: "We have had some push back from the bus industry this week. It is not (a stealth tax) because we are saying we need funding to enable the bus industry to upgrade. 90pc of the buses in GM are not compliant. The industry has a role to play here."

Local authorities have been tasked by central government with improving air quality to within legal limits as soon as possible - with more than 1,200 deaths a year linked to harmful nitrogen dioxide levels. Buses and lorries would be expected to pay PS100 per day, with taxis and vans facing a PS7.50 fee.

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Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 5, 2019
Words:389
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