Category Archives: News

UK’s most polluted cities urge Prime Minister to take action on air quality

In a historic move, the leaders of the six UK cities worst affected by air pollution 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 (1) and research from London demonstrates the resulting health effects disproportionately impact the most deprived communities (2).

For the first time, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the leaders of Derby, Nottingham, Leeds, Birmingham and Southampton have written to Theresa May urgently calling 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; and
  • unlocking new powers for local authorities, particularly regarding limiting construction and river emissions.

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.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The quality of the air we breathe, both in London and in major cities across the UK, is killing thousands of people every year and is creating a national health emergency. As city leaders, we are doing what we can to tackle this problem, but the fact is we are fighting with one arm tied behind our backs and lasting progress will only be made if national government matches the ambitious action we are taking. The time for urgent action is now.”

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake, said: “Leeds City Council takes air quality very seriously and has been working on a number of initiatives to help tackle air pollution in the city. We are now calling on the government to give more support to Leeds, as well as the other cities identified by Defra as needing to implement a Clean Air Zone, through the introduction of new legislation around the better regulation of all types of emissions sources, alongside aligning key priorities with the introduction of Clean Air Zones.”

Leader of Derby City Council, Councillor Ranjit Banwait, said: “In 2015 Derby City Council was identified by DEFRA, along with four other cities, as having areas of air quality exceedance.  The city council is lobbying government to provide the necessary resources to ensure that the city can make the necessary transition without impacting adversely on local services and to ensure that residents obtain the health and well-being benefits in the future.“

Leader of Southampton City Council, 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.”

Leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor John Clancy, said: “Air pollution is now a public health crisis in this country and we need real leadership from the Government. Our towns and cities are keen to tackle this issue but we must be given the tools and funding needed to secure the future health of our citizens. The time for action is now.”

Leader of Nottingham City Council, Councillor Jon Collins, said: “Nottingham is already carrying out a wide range of measures to improve air quality, including investment in trams, electric buses and cycling infrastructure. We want not only to deliver a workable and effective Clean Air Zone by 2020, but also to take a joined-up approach by aligning a range of proposals to ensure we are tackling air pollution in Nottingham as effectively and comprehensively as possible – but we need Government support to help deliver our ambitions.”

The Mayor of London has proposed to implement a wide-ranging package of measures to clean up London’s air, including a £10 toxicity charge – or ‘T-charge’ – for the most polluting vehicles later this year.

  1. Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health: ‘Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution’ (https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution)
  2. British Lung Foundation: ‘The Battle for Breath – the impact of lung disease in the UK’ (https://www.blf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/the-battle-for-breath-2016)

Clean Air Zones

  • Clean Air Zones will target areas of a city where air quality problems are most serious, by reducing pollution and encourage the replacement of old, polluting vehicles with modern, cleaner vehicles.
  • In 2105, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton were identified by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as having breached legal limits for air quality.
  • Last year, a public consultation was held about implementing Clean Air Zones in these five cities by 2020. The government is currently examining the responses.

We need answers on Surrey ‘sweetheart deal’ reports

GUardian Surrey 'sweetheart deal'

I’ve joined with other council leaders from across the country to demand answers from the Prime Minister about a deal the Government is alleged to have hatched to give Surrey County Council special help to address the social care funding crisis.

We are asking whether it is the case that Surrey council leader David Hodge agreed to call off a referendum proposing a 15 per cent council tax rise in return for a secret agreement by the Department for Communities and Local Government to plug a huge gap in the council’s budget caused by social care costs and spending cuts.

Surrey is by no means alone in facing an acute and growing social care crisis.

Here in Birmingham, we spent £346 million on adult social care seven years ago. Taking inflation into account, we’d need to spend £420 million now to be delivering services at the same level.

In fact, because of the Government’s austerity regime, we will be able to spend about £230 million in 2017-18.

Our spending on caring for older people has been decimated. Cut by almost half since 2010.

The independent King’s Fund charity believes that in two years there will be a £2.8 billion gap across the country between demand for social care and local authority resources to pay for social care.

By that time public spending on social care will fall to less than one per cent of GDP.

So, if the Government is prepared to help Surrey it must give the same help to all other councils.

Here is the text of the letter to Theresa May:

The Prime Minister

10 Downing Street

London SW1A 2AA

Prime Minister,

We are writing regarding funding arrangements for Conservative-run Surrey County Council. Specifically, the alleged reason behind David Hodge’s decision to drop a planned referendum on increasing council tax by 15 per cent to cover the severe shortfalls in social care, after apparently holding ‘several conversations’ with Whitehall figures.

It has been widely reported in leaked texts, sent by David Hodge supposedly intended for Nick King, Sajid Javid’s special advisor, that DCLG was working on a ‘Memorandum of Understanding.’

In response, as Leaders of Labour councils and council groups, we have a series of questions:

  • Was a deal struck for Surrey County Council?
  • If so, what are the details of the deal?
  • Why was a special deal struck with Surrey behind closed doors?
    Does the Government finally recognise that local Government is grossly underfunded and is that why they have given a special deal to Surrey?
  • Does the Government now recognise that there will be a £2.6bn shortfall in social care funding by 2020?
  • If a deal was struck, will Ministers offer the same deal given to Surrey to all councils, regardless of political affiliation, when the Local Government finance settlement is published on 22nd February?

We have a crisis in social care, resulting from the Conservative Government’s cuts to local authority funding. Secret backroom deals are not the answer. We urgently need a proper solution, which means providing councils with the funding they needed to solve this crisis.

Given the public interest in this matter we will be publishing this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Barrie Grunwald     St Helen’s Council

Mohammed Butt    Brent Council

Richard Watts          Islington Council

Stewart Young         Cumbria County Council

Simon Henig            Durham County Council

Nick Forbes              Newcastle City Council

Lewis Herbert          Cambridge City Council

Peter Martland        Milton Keynes Council

Warren Morgan      Brighton & Hove City Council

Jaz Athwal                 Redbridge Council

Sharon Taylor          Stevenage Council

Simon Greaves        Bassetlaw Council

Peter John                Southwark Council

Sam Dixon                Cheshire West and Chester Council

Steven Brady           Hull City Council

Iain Malcolm            South Tyneside Council

Ray Oxby                   North East Lincolnshire Council

David Budd              Middlesborough Council

Jean Stretton           Oldham Council

Simon Letts              Southampton Council

Sue Jeffrey                Redcar and Cleveland Council

Doug Taylor             Enfield Council

Susan Hinchcliffe    Bradford Council

Mark Townsend      Burnley District Council

Hazel Simmons       Luton Council

Alan Rhodes             Nottinghamshire County Council

Claire Kober             Harringey Council

Peter Box                  Wakefield Council

Christopher Akers-Belcher          Hartlepool Council

Richard Leese          Manchester City Council

Judith Blake              Leeds City Council

Bob Price                  Oxford Council

Tom Beattie             Corby Council

Sachan Shah            Harrow Council

Bob Cook                  Stockton Council

John Clancy              Birmingham City Council

Julian Bell                  Ealing Council

Julie Dore                  Sheffield City Council

Steve Bullock           Lewisham Council

Shaun Davies           Telford & Wrekin Council

Terry O’Neill             Warrington Council

Stephen Lydon        Stroud Council

Phil Davies                Wirral Council

Alexander Ganotis Stockport Council

Steve Eling                Sandwell Council

Sarah Hayward       Camden Council

Peter Lamb              Crawley Council

Simon Blackburn    Blackpool Council

Steve Houghton      Barnsley Council

Jon Collins                 Nottingham City Council

Robin Wales             Newham Council

Alistair Bradley        Chorley Council

Stephen Alambritis            Merton Council

Darren Rodwell       Barking and Dagenham Council

Ian Maher                 Sefton Council

Ros Jones                  Doncaster Council

Roger Lawrence      Wolverhampton Council

Martin Gannon       Gateshead Council

Tim Swift                   Calderdale Council

Cliff Morris                Bolton Council

Pete Lowe                 Dudley Council

Tony Newman         Croydon Council

 

Midlands region unites on unprecedented scale at MIPIM 2017

  • Midlands area comes together under one roof to showcase £14billion worth of investment opportunities at global property exhibition
  • Area supported by nearly 50 private and public sector partners, including Department for International Trade (DIT)

A Midlands-wide delegation – featuring ten Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas and 49 private and public sector partners – will exhibit together for the first time at the global property and real estate show MIPIM (Cannes, France, 14th-17th March).

Working collaboratively in a dedicated pavilion, the Midlands Engine delegation is the largest of its kind to represent the UK at this year’s event. The region will showcase more than £14billion worth of projects and investment sites to the annual exhibition’s 23,000 attendees – from potential investors and developers to property agents and the media. Themes will range from the opportunities surrounding the Midlands’ connectivity offer – including the new High Speed 2 rail network – to the region’s Enterprise Zones, housing and commercial schemes.

Destination partners include Greater Birmingham (Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country); Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and Coventry & Warwickshire LEP; D2N2 (Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire); Lincoln & Lincolnshire; Leicester City Council and Leicester & Leicestershire LEP; SEMLEP; Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire; Telford & The Marches; and Worcestershire.

The inaugural 200m² Midlands UK pavilion will contain an event space – featuring a programme of up to 50 presentations, panel discussions and receptions – and a networking area, plus separate sections for each destination partner.

Sir John Peace, Chairman of the Midlands Engine, said: “The Midlands is coming together on an unprecedented scale at MIPIM to attract even more investment from around the world. The Midlands Engine is working hard to accelerate growth across the whole region and Local Authorities, LEPs and businesses are all collaborating to bring this ambition to fruition. MIPIM is always a success for our region and this year we have more exciting investment opportunities than ever before. For the first time, a brand new Midlands Pavilion will showcase the wide range of investment opportunities across the region, demonstrating to investors around the world that the Midlands is open for business and can offer a global proposition.”

The region’s presence is being coordinated by inward investment agency Marketing Birmingham, together with the Department for International Trade (DIT) and partners including transport hubs Birmingham Airport and East Midlands Airport, automotive giant Jaguar Land Rover and the Midlands Enterprise Universities group.

Cllr John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council, commented: “Interest and confidence in Birmingham is booming – shown by a significant increase in office and residential construction and the highest rate of business growth of any UK city in 2016.

“Last year’s MIPIM exhibition put Birmingham firmly in the spotlight, with landmark announcements surrounding the city’s multi-million pound Paradise, Smithfield and Snowhill developments.

“As part of a united presence this year with our colleagues from across the Midlands, we will be demonstrating to global investors that Birmingham has a huge range of options for big capital investment in regeneration schemes such as Curzon to smaller shovel-ready projects.”

The Midlands region covers 18.4% of the UK population and an economy worth £243billion. It contains two core cities, 12 million people, 25 universities, 25 science parks and three international airports. In the last five years, the Midlands area has received over 1,130 Foreign Direct Investment projects, creating over 62,800 new jobs.