UK Government Boosts Local Air Quality with £3m in Funding
From The Guardian, Published on 24 October 2016
Annual funding for local air quality management in England has been restored to previous levels, reversing a chronic decline, reports The ENDS Report.
The government has stumped up £3m to fund English local authorities’ work to monitor and improve air quality.
The air quality grant for 2016/17 was announced on 6 October and is six times greater than the amount allocated for the current financial year. It is the first funding round to be managed by DEFRA and the Department for Transport’s Joint Air Quality Unit.
Some £2.36m was allocated when the fund was launched in 2010/11, rising to £3.1m the following two years. But it fell to £1m in 2013/14 and 2014/15.
This was then cut further to only £0.5m. The number of councils given cash to improve air quality dropped accordingly, falling from 36 to eight over the past three years. More councils in Northern Ireland than England received such funding in 2016.
ENDS highlighted the steady reduction to the fund in January.
So too did the Commons’ Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA), which in April called on DEFRA to preserve funding and ensure that councils are “recompensed for any costs of implementing new clean air zones which they are not able to recoup from reasonable charges on drivers”.
Restoring the grant’s budget may be interpreted as a response to such criticism.
The grant may be sought for any location that DEFRA projects will exceed EU air quality limits, as reported to the European Commission, or had an air quality management area declared by the end of March 2016. Applications are due before midday on November 23.
EFRA chair Neil Parish said: “The government needs to act now to give all councils the power – and crucially, the funding – to implement a Clean Air Zone and limit the most polluting vehicles in hotspot areas. The £3m government funding pot is a start, but not nearly enough. We also need a big push to incentivize electric and low-emissions vehicles to replace the oldest, most polluting vehicles.”
In a response to a written parliamentary question by the MP, on 19 October the government revealed that more than a third (169) of the UK’s 418 local authorities breached air quality limits on nitrogen dioxide in 2015. Breaches were reported in all four UK nations.
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