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Councils call for more funding to support clean air plans

Council leaders have called for more funding and ‘robust national action’ to help tackle air pollution.

The Government launched its new clean air strategy earlier this week, which includes giving councils new powers to improve air quality.

In addition, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has also announced Public Health England will develop a new tool, which will enable local authorities to estimate the economic impact of air pollution in their area.

The tool takes account of the cumulative cost for diseases where there is a strong association with air pollution: coronary heart disease; stroke; lung cancer; and child asthma.

The Local Government Association (LGA’s), environment spokesman, Cllr Martin Tett said the Government’s air quality plans will need to be underpinned by ‘local flexibility, sufficient funding and ‘robust national action’ if they are to be successful.

‘It is also important that councils have the powers to further tackle air pollution, particularly with regard to clean air zones as well as expanded road and traffic measures, added Cllr Tett.

‘If we’re to truly tackle air pollution, we need government support to enable us to deliver effective local plans, and robust national action to help the country transition to low-emission vehicles and power generation.’

The County Councils Network (CCN) spokesman for communities and wellbeing, Cllr Ian Stewart, echoed Cllr Tett’s comments and said any local action under the plan must be ‘supported by sufficient resources to fulfil any new responsibilities, alongside national policies’.

‘County authorities therefore have a major role to play in delivering government proposals to take joined-up local action.

‘CCN will engage with member councils on potential changes to the balance of responsibility for clean local air between lower and upper tier authorities in county areas.

‘At a minimum, councils will need to take a strategic view across a county area in developing local plans to minimise complexity and additional resource implications.

‘With upper-tier health and wellbeing boards already providing local leadership on public health responsibilities, consideration could be given to the role they can play in developing local air quality plans,’ added Cllr Stewart.

The chair of ADEPT’s (Association of Directors of Environment, Planning and Transport) environment board, Paula Hewitt said the Government must ‘play its part’ and provide proactive leadership and not ‘just push responsibility to councils to design local solutions’.

‘Tackling air pollution requires a ‘joined up’ approach that crosses sectors, professions, and administrative boundaries,’ said Ms Hewitt.

‘Air pollution is not just a health issue, it is a health inequality issue that has a disproportionate impact on children and on the people who live in our poorest communities,’ she added.

‘Charging drivers of polluting vehicles to drive into areas where air pollution is the biggest threat – including near many urban schools – is badly needed, but will require public understanding as air pollution is not just a technical issue.’

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