We are finally seeing some sort of paper to do with air pollution in Bristol. The trouble is it is late and it is woefully inadequate.
It has the air about it of it being forced by Government rather than a keen and enthusiastic opportunity to tackle a major local problem.
If we had a violent killing in Bristol every day could you imagine that being ignored. Because you cannot see the killer does not mean it is not there and needing tackled.
An estimated 300 people a year die in Bristol because of air pollution and many more have their quality of life ruined. We can and we must tackle this issue with far more gusto.
What we actually see is the same story as usual from the mayor about it all being the Government’s fault. We can agree that it would be ideal if Government provided more money but this is Bristol’s problem and we need to tackle it as quickly and comprehensively as possible.
Read more: Latest on clean air plan for Bristol
The first thing to say is that the “consultation”is a sham. How can you meaningfully have a consultation on a different plan to that which you are planning to enact? Many facts are not published.
Some features that need to be present are not:
1. An escalating charge depending upon the amount of damaging pollution emitted.
2. Charges advertised to escalate over time so that there is a realisation that just paying the fee is a poor choice. This though gives a chance for businesses to adapt. Most have leases on vehicles that are very difficult to change immediately.
3. This scheme will raise revenue. It is vital that people know where it will be spent. Will it actually be invested to reduce pollution and save lives?
4. We need to have a positive upgrade scheme funded from the revenue that provides cheap loans to allow those on lower incomes to get a less polluting vehicle. This must be targeted at those that need it not a general subsidy. Some of the cars taken in do not necessarily need to be scrapped and can be resold elsewhere where local pollution is less of a problem.
5. We need an alternative transport option where practical with options of long term public transport passes and use of clean car clubs.
6. We need bus franchising so that those prepared to use an alternative have a more comprehensive and dependable service.
We also need a reactivation in Bristol of the hydrogen economy that was killed off for the moment by the last mayor
Less than one per cent of new car sales are electric and two pioneers illustrate why.
Our new lord mayor Jos Clark deserves great credit for switching to an all electric car (introduced under the former lord mayor Cleo Lake), but of course she has an off-street spot to charge her car overnight.
By contrast a local Labour MP, who has also taken the plunge, lives – as many Bristolians do – in a flat with no charging facilities and had to point to the major problems including potential very long waits at public charging points.
The huge number of houses with no off-street space are also a massive challenge.
Contrast that with the only other zero emission rare hydrogen vehicles that have a rapid refill and a 400 mile range. The trouble is the previous mayor took out the fuel station and the present one has shown no interest to reestablish the option. Other towns and cities are moving forward and of course hydrogen is being introduced for trains and is a practical option for lorries and buses.
The justification for having a mayor for Bristol was better concentration on big ideas and strategy. This complete failure on this vital issue shows why far more Bristolians, according to the council’s own quality of life survey, believe that decision making has gone backwards rather than improving due to the adoption of the mayor system.
Gary Hopkins is a Lib Dem councillor for Knowle
Read more: ‘We can be a source of hope for our planet’