Andy Burnham has spoken out in response to a petition that’s amassed over 16,000 signatures in opposition to the upcoming Clean Air Zone charge.
In case you haven’t noticed, signs informing members of the public that the controversial scheme will begin to take effect from 30 May 2022 have been going up across the region over the last couple of months, with the roadside cameras to enforce the new policy across said to be being installed later on this year.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras will be used enforce any non-payment of daily charges that will come with the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone.
The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone is said to be “designed to protect everyone’s health by bringing harmful nitrogen dioxide air pollution at the roadside within legal limits as soon as possible.”
While private cars, motorbikes, and mopeds won’t be affected, some vehicles that do not meet emissions standards – known as ‘non-compliant vehicles’ – will be charged to drive in the Clean Air Zone, with charges ranging from £7.50 for taxis and private hire vehicles, and £10 for vans and minibuses, all the way through to £60 for buses, coaches, and HGVs.
Daily charges will also occur for campervans and motorhomes too, depending on the tax class of the vehicle.
As much of the region has started to become more aware of the scheme since signs have gone up, and have begun to learn of the charges involved, this has thus prompted much critique and generated widespread conversation on how local businesses will be affected.
The petition is aiming to “stop [the scheme] in its tracks”.
“Can you remember being asked by [Andy Burnham] or anyone in Greater Manchester if you wanted this? We were not. What sort of democracy is that? We need to stop this in its tracks,” the person who set up the petition exclaimed – and it has seen the Mayor of Greater Manchester himself respond on Twitter yesterday evening.
Mr Burnham said he “thought I owed everyone who has signed it the courtesy of a reply,” to explain “where we go from here.”
He said in his response on Twitter: “Calling this ‘Andy Burnham’s Clean Air Charge’ implies two things: (1) that I instigated it; (2) that I have the legal power to stop it [but] neither is true as the Government initiated the process which led to this and only they have the power to stop it or delay it.
“This said, even the Government would struggle to scrap it.
“In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled: a) it had broken the law by failing to protect people from polluted air (b) urgent action must be taken. This led to the Government placing legal instructions on local councils [and] as a result, all 10 GM councils were directed to reduce air pollution by 2024.
“This is because analysis has shown all 10 GM boroughs have places where air pollution breaches legal limits.
“The Government’s direction sets a Category C zone as the default solution.
“One criticism of the GM scheme is its size. It’s true this is a local decision. In effect, our councils had little choice. The alternative – a patchwork of local zones across 10 boroughs – would be unworkable [as] boundaries would constantly change as pollution was transferred.
“While the decision rests with our councils, I was involved in all the discussions and together we agreed our best approach was to: exclude cars; accept a wide zone; and fight for financial support to help people change vehicles.
“After all, we’ll all benefit from cleaner air.”
The Mayor continued his statement in response on Twitter, before concluding that: “I believe the right way to go from here is for GM to fight as one for changes to the scheme to protect jobs and businesses.
“We will publish our proposals shortly as part of a GM campaign.
“We hope everyone who has signed this petition will feel able to get behind it.”
You can find out more about the Clean Air Zone charges for different vehicles, and the financial support on offer here.
You’ll soon be able to leave WhatsApp group chats without anyone finding out
In what is sure to be music to the ears of those sick of having irrelevant memes sent to them every 30 seconds by people you barely know, you’ll soon be able to leave WhatsApp group chats without anyone finding out.
Whether it’s a group made up of extended family members you see only see twice a year, colleagues at work, mutual friends you’re not really that keen on, or people you only met one time because you were at the same pre-drinks together before a night out, most of us are part of a WhatsApp group chat we’d rather not be.
The type of group chat you’re not really sure how you became a part of, and the type of chat you’ve got no clue how to politely leave.
And a big part of the reason most of us can’t bring ourselves to leave those groups is because, the second you do, a little notification pops-up at the bottom of the chat to notify everyone else that you have “left” – which can, understandably, be pretty awkward and embarrassing.
Luckily though, WhatsApp and Mark Zuckerberg – who is chief executive of the messaging service’s parent company, Meta – is soon to introduce a handful of new changes designed with the aim of making written messages as “secure as face-to-face conversations”, and one of those changes is allowing people to leave group chats without other members in the group finding out.
The company says that now only administrators of the group will receive a notification to inform them a member has exited the chat.
On top of that somewhat life-saving change, the other changes being introduced will allow people to control who can see when they are online, and also prevent screenshots being taken by other users of auto-deleting ‘View Once’ messages.
At present, the messaging service broadcasts to all contacts of a user when they are online and have the app open, but now, this is something that users will be able to choose to share with others.
WhatsApp had also previously-warned users to “only send photos or videos with ‘View Once’ media enabled to trusted individuals”, as it was possible to take a screenshot or screen recording of the message before it disappeared – but now, the act of taking screenshots will be prohibited.
In his post announcing the new WhatsApp updates, Mr Zuckerberg explained that the company will “keep building new ways to protect your messages and keep them as private and secure as face-to-face conversations.”
Meta has stated on a number of occasions that it believes end-to-end encryption is the only way to ensure users are able to message each other without a third party eavesdropping on them.
Mr Zuckerberg announced his plans to transform privacy on WhatsApp in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal back in 2019, and made it impossible for Meta itself to read the content of messages that users share, which is similar to how it cannot access the content of WhatsApp messages.
However, these changes have not yet been implemented across Meta’s other platforms.
“We believe WhatsApp is the most secure place to have a private conversation,” added Ami Vora – Head of Product at WhatsApp.
“And to spread the word about these new features, we’re also kicking off a global campaign, starting with the UK and India, to educate people about how we work to protect their private conversations on WhatsApp.”