Local leadership group UK100 has described the short time-frame on consultation of the UK Government’s new Air Quality Strategy as “unacceptable”.
The consultation on the new strategy began on 11 April and is due to end on 21 April, during recess and the current purdah period – ahead of the local elections.
The Air Quality Strategy sets out the actions the government expects local authorities to take in support of achieving our long-term air quality goals, including new PM2.5 targets. The targets include a commitment to cut average PM 2.5 concentration levels in England to 10 µg m-3 or below and PM2.5 population exposure to 35% of 2018 levels by 2040. It also provides a framework to enable local authorities to make the use of their powers on air quality.
Concern has been raised by the timeline for consultation on the issues, with UK100’s Interim Chief Executive, Jason Torrance, stating it was “incredible” that the government had given local authorities, the public and others only 10 days to respond.
He said: “Action on one of the greatest environmental and public health threats of our time is urgent, but it needs to be taken with public consent and in collaboration with local leaders to be credible and effective.
“It’s unacceptable that local leaders have been left gasping for breath as they try to respond to a strategy conferring huge new responsibilities on local authorities during a pre-election period that restricts how they can respond.
“The first thing Ministers must do is extend the consultation period — and do so beyond the local elections.”
UK100 also criticised the strategy as “flimsy” with the previous version ten times longer – and the current one lacking details for successful implementation by local authorities, especially “considering its putting the responsibility for addressing the government’s air quality failings squarely on their shoulders”, Torrance said.
He said: “The emphasis on local authority responsibilities is not aligned with necessary clear guidance or support that will allow local leaders to actually act — particularly when it comes to funding.
“The air quality grant scheme mentioned in the strategy, for example, has only delivered £53 million of funding to local authorities in 13 years. Meanwhile, research has shown since just 2019, local authorities have spent anywhere between £27 million and £63 million on just preparing bids for competitive funding pots like the air quality grant scheme.”
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