Government totally wrong to move the Clean Air Zones goalposts, says FSB

Date published: 19 July 2019

Government intervention forcing authorities in Greater Manchester to speed up the introduction of pollution charging will shut down firms and cost jobs, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned.

The Government today ordered TfGM to bring forward the scheme for all commercial vehicles to January 2021. It means thousands of small businesses have less than 18 months to replace or modify their vehicles, or face a daily fine of £7.50 a day to operate anywhere in GM.

TfGM’s original plans had been to stagger the charges, with busses, coaches, taxis and HGVs taking the hit first (£100 penalty a day), but with LGVs not affected until January 2023.

The new plans mean all commercial diesel vehicles not Euro 6 compliant, generally anything pre-2016 model year, will have to pay the tax.

Robert Downes, FSB Development Manager in Greater Manchester said: “This is going to be a hammer blow for many small businesses already struggling with rising costs, and leaves them with precious little time to plan and budget for the change.

“Those businesses affected will be feeling both aggrieved and concerned about the implications of this decision, which will be felt widely right across GM and beyond its borders. I envisage an army of local tradespeople, your average ‘white van man’, seething at this news.

“Our own research early this summer showed very few small businesses were preparing for, or even knew about the plans to introduce pollution charging.

“So, moving the goalposts and bringing forward the timeframe to capture ‘white van man’ is just going to cause chaos. I am convinced it will lead to business closures, job losses and will actually damage the local economy.”

“With not enough time to plan, a lot of businesses will just pass this charge on to customers, pushing up prices in all areas and doing nothing to reduce pollution levels, while private motorists can pollute at will. Is this about raising revenue or reducing pollution? Many people will see this as a backdoor to congestion charging, although it’s business that are having to take the hit.

“What’s more, it sounds like Government are only providing money to implement the enforcement aspect of this project, i.e. a camera network.

If there is no money to help businesses make the change then that’s truly shocking.

“What we need is money to help businesses comply. A scrappage scheme alone is not going to cut it, for many firms replacing their vehicle will be too expensive. We need to see a massive push for retrofit to make older vehicles Euro 6 compliant and therefore able to avoid the penalty.

“I think there’s a danger businesses are now being cut lose by government to fend for themselves without a sensible time frame or any credible assistance to comply. The likely outcome to this will be businesses just paying the penalty, and that means the scheme’s aim of reducing pollution will be a massive failure.

“The FSB urges the CA to push back to government in the strongest possible way.”

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