Boris Johnson has today called Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone plan “completely unworkable”.
He has said to expect an update on the scheme “within days”.
The Prime Minister’s claim regarding the scheme’s effectiveness came in response to Conservative MP for Leigh, James Grundy, during PMQs in the House of Commons this afternoon, who said the plan would be a “job-destroying tax” on “ordinary workers”.
When Mr Grundy asked whether the Prime Minister would “intervene”, Mr Johnson responded admitting that “we must find an alternative that doesn’t punish local residents.”
Mr Grundy said: “The Greater Manchester Mayoral Clean Air Zone scheme, effectively a congestion charge affecting all 500 square miles of Greater Manchester, including my constituents in Leigh, is a job-destroying tax on ordinary workers.
“We all want clean air, but the model proposed by Mayor Burnham is unworkable and economically devastating with charges of £60 per day, per lorry driver.
“Taxis, white van men, even buses, will be affected by it.
“Will the PM intervene to prevent Mayor Burnham from inflicting this disastrous Labour scheme on Greater Manchester?”
In response to Mr Grundy’s question, Mr Johnson said: “I know from my own experience how vital it is when you’re trying to clean up air in a great city that you do not unjustly penalise business and small business and it’s become clear that the scheme proposed by the Labour mayor in Manchester is completely unworkable, would do more damage to businesses and residents in Manchester.
“So we must find an alternative that doesn’t punish local residents.”
He added that the Secretary of State for the Environment, George Eustice, will be saying more about this in the coming days.”
The idea that the plan would be referred back to the government was already on the cards after Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) issued a statement on the matter, with bosses explaining that there is a “fundamental concern” that certain global and national factors may “impact on the ability” of local businesses and individuals to upgrade their vehicles, and whether the current support package agreed with government of £120 million would be sufficient.
The authority said that “emerging evidence” from businesses and trade has highlighted significant challenges related to supply chain issues and inflation.
They also said that more money is needed for taxis, vans, minibuses, and coaches.
What is the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone?
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 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.
Some environmentalists, however, believe the scheme does not go far enough.
You can find out more about the Clean Air Zone charges for different vehicles, and the financial support on offer here.
Teenager stabbed to death at house party in Leeds named, as murder investigation launched
A 17-year-old who was fatally stabbed at a house party in Leeds has been named by police, as a murder investigation is launched.
The victim has been named as Trust Junior Jordan Gangata, known to his loved ones as TJ.
TJ was fatally wounded in an incident at a house in Salisbury Grove, Armley, in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Four men have been arrested on suspicion of murder – an 18 year old man from Huddersfield, and three men from Bradford, one aged 18 and two aged 19. They remain in custody.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Weekes said: “Trust’s family are going through an incredibly difficult time, and we have specially trained family liaison officers supporting them.
“We are keeping them fully updated as we continue to progress the investigation into his murder, with the four men we have arrested remaining in custody.
“Trust’s family have asked that people respect their privacy as they try to come to terms with having him taken from them in such sudden and violent circumstances.
“We continue to appeal for anyone who was at the party where Trust was attacked and who has any information that could assist the investigation to come forward and tell us what they know.”
They wrote: “It is with great sadness to report that one of our Lower Sixth students, Trust ‘TJ’ Gangata, tragically lost his life in the early hours of Sunday morning. The College community is devastated by this news and we have him, his family, and his friends in our thoughts and prayers.
“Students, particularly his friends, will find this news very difficult to understand and accept. Our Achievement Tutors, Safeguarding Team, and College Counsellors are available to all who need support. The Chapel is also available for all who need a quiet space.
“Trust’s teachers described him as a “friendly, sociable, and kind student who always contributed positively in class”. Friends of Trust called him “hardworking, funny, and loyal” who was “a role model to his friends and always had a smile on his face”.”
A scene remains in place around the address in Salisbury Grove to undergo forensic examination and specialist searches.
Information can be given anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Featured image: West Yorkshire Police
RMT Union members ‘overwhelmingly’ vote to accept new pay offer
RMT Union has announced that its members have “overwhelmingly” voted to accept a new offer covering pay, jobs, and conditions.
In a statement revealing the outcome of the vote to accept the “improved offer” released today, the rail union said that 20,000 of its members voted by 76% to 24% in favour – which is said to mean the end of the trade dispute with Network Rail.
It comes after a series of strikes were staged over several months.
The offer voted in favour of includes an uplift on salaries of between 14.4% for the lowest paid grades to 9.2% or the highest paid, and a total uplift on basic earnings between 15.2% for the lowest paid grades to 10.3% for the highest paid grades – which represents an additional 1.1% over the duration of the deal, according to RMT.
Other “key factors” of the offer, according to RMT, includes discounted rail travel benefits for members.
The offer also includes increased backpay, and a renewing of the ‘no compulsory redundancy agreement’ until January 2025.
On top of this, RMT claims Network Rail will withdraw its previous insistence the offer was conditional on RMT accepting the company ‘modernising maintenance’ agenda – which the union will continue to “scrutinise and challenge”.
Reflecting on the outcome of the vote today, RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said that when the Union first declared the dispute with Network Rail nearly a year ago, RMT was told that Network Rail workers would only get 2-3%.
“However, since then strike action and the inspiring solidarity and determination of members has secured new money,” he added.
“A new offer which has been clearly accepted by our members and that dispute is now over.”
Mr Lynch did, however, confirm that rail passengers will still face disruption from strike action scheduled for 30 March and 1 April, as they are still yet to strike a deal with the 14 train operating companies represented by the Rail Delivery Group.
“Our dispute with the train operating companies remains firmly on and our members recent highly effective strike action across the fourteen train companies has shown their determination to secure a better deal,” he explained.
“If the government now allows the train companies to make the right offer, we can then put that to our members but until then the strike action scheduled will take place.