In a historic move, Southampton’s Labour-led City Council, alongside the Mayor of London, have called on the Prime Minister to take urgent action to clean up the country’s toxic air.
Every year in Britain 40,000 people die early as a result of air pollution and research from London demonstrates the resulting health effects disproportionately impact the most deprived communities.
The letter calls for:
• Making vehicle manufacturers more accountable for emissions – with a zero-tolerance approach to malpractice, following the recent Volkswagen scandal.
• National minimum emissions standards for private hire vehicles to ensure local requirements are not undermined.
• Greater regulation powers over the use of diesel generators.
• A new 21st century Clean Air Act which will update existing legislation.
• Enshrining the ‘right to clean air’ in law after the UK leaves the European Union.
• Unlocking new powers for local authorities, particularly regarding limiting construction and river emissions.
Labour Councillor Christopher Hammond, who leads Southampton’s clear air strategy, said, “Your Labour council has prioritised improving the quality of the air we breathe in our city. We recently launched our Clean Air Strategy, which has a number of measures in it, which will take us back into safe legal limits, but we’re not stopping there.
Port, Bus, Cruise and HGV companies, need to accept and adapt their operations to reduce their impact on residents. We’ll be launching a partnership to encourage that to happen.
We all contribute to the problem, but we can all contribute to the solution and your council will work to make lasting change.”
The letter describes the government’s current £3 million fund for local authorities to clean up their air as “woefully inadequate” and criticises the uncertainty around funding for transport schemes for preventing accurate and detailed planning in the long-term.
It also underlines the fact air pollution is not a problem local authorities can solve alone, they need government to devolve powerful fiscal incentives such as Vehicle Excise Duty and create a national diesel vehicle scrappage fund.
It comes as the government prepares to consult on a new national air quality plan to meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide as soon as possible, following the recent High Court ruling against its previous plan.
Leader of Southampton City Council, Labour Councillor Simon Letts, said, “The quality of the air we breathe is an issue which affects everybody that lives in the city. We can only act on this issue with government support and along with the leaders of other affected areas I have written today to the Prime Minister requesting that action to improve air quality be prioritised.”