Stringent anti-pollution legislation was passed in Brussels in 1996 which most European governments failed to meet in 2005. The government has applied for an extension until 2011 and if the UK does not meet those targets then the government, and therefore taxpayers, will face a bill of up to £300million. It is estimated that more than 24,000 people in the UK were killed by air pollution in 2005. If this trend continued then up to 36,000 more people could die unless air quality is improved.
At a conference held by LACORS (Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services), Defra and the Department for Transport, council leaders will call for new measures for local authorities to help cut emissions, improve air quality and reduce premature deaths from pollution.
The call includes greater powers to influence polluters in their areas, such as bus operators and the Highways Agency. Increasing resources and support now for public transport improvements, the development of Low Emission Zones and publicity campaigns are essential if we are to save lives and avoid these huge fines.
Cllr Paul Bettison, Chairman of LACORS, said:
“For the benefit of the taxpayer in the long term and to protect people’s health the government needs to help councils cut pollution. The looming fines facing the country mean that we, as a nation, need to strive to improve air quality before public money is sucked into the EU and gets diverted from front line services.
“Councils know the problem areas in their patch and if given the right powers and funding then they will be able to help cut emissions while ensuring that local people and businesses are not hit in the pocket by new measures.
“It is time for the government to take a bold and radical approach to cutting pollution by giving councils greater influence over polluters in their areas and investing now to save taxpayers from footing these huge bills in the future.”