THE GOVERNMENT’S decision on whether to impose a congestion charge on Coventry motorists could come later than previously anticipated, a council chief says.
Coventry City Council cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, Jim O’Boyle, had previously hinted that he expected a decision by the end of July.
But now he says council officers are saying the wait could go on beyond the end of August at the earliest.
The council on June 14 submitted its modeling to government in a bid to avoid the imposition of the charging ‘Clean Air Zone’.
As we have reported, the government has issued a legal ‘directive’ that the council must introduce the charge for older and more polluting vehicles using streets within a city boundary.
The government claims it would cut emissions significantly ‘in the shortest possible time’.
Coun O’Boyle told us: “I can confirm we have heard nothing.
“Officers say they may have a reply by the end of August but with a new government now in place this may change.”
He also told us he is confident the government will not impose the ‘economically disastrous’ charging zone.
A spokesperson from the government’s department for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) told us today: “We have received the additional modelling required of Coventry.
“We are reviewing their evidence and will be making recommendations to ministers in the near future.”
Ruling Labour councillors, opposition Tories and other figures in the city have spoken out passionately against the zone.
Many say it would be a ‘regressive tax’ – unfairly penalising poorer motorists with older cars.
Ex-Coventry MP Dave Nellist, of the Socialist Party, has started a petition against the congestion charge – while instead calling for free public transport to tackle air quality issues.
His petition has nearly gained a staggering 6,000 signatures.
The government directive came after Coventry was named as one of 22 towns and cities within the UK where Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels are forecast to exceed legal limits by next year.
In issuing the directive, DEFRA had rejected Coventry council’s previous wide-ranging and controversial £80million Air Quality Action Plan to cut emissions.
DEFRA is now threatening to force on Coventry the most severe ‘class D’ zone.
A class D ‘Birmingham-style’ charge system would mean older and more polluting cars, buses, coaches, taxis and vans would have to pay potentially £8 a day.
Nitrogen Dioxide levels at the ring road, Holyhead Road, Walsgrave Road, Binley Road and London Road are all set to exceed the EU’s safe limit value of 40 micrograms per cubic metre by 2021 – by quite some distance.