I presented a 1220 signature petition seeking an urgent new Sheffield air pollution action plan at the April 5th council meeting. Cllr Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet member for Infrastructure and Transport, pointed to their “Growing Sustainably” plan and said a new air pollution plan would “hopefully” follow in the next few months. I sensed no great urgency to replace the Council’s 2012 Air Quality Action Plan that set objectives to be achieved by 2015. That plan failed to achieve the key overall goal of preventing 500 premature deaths a year due to air pollution, mainly from vehicle exhausts.
Councils are in a rapid transition from massive government grant funding to bidding for much smaller pots competitively. All 10 cities that submitted bids received a share of £14 million in March to fund taxi electric charging point projects so polluting diesel cabs can be phased out. West Yorkshire got £2 million but Sheffield did not submit a bid. In 2013, Sheffield was the only major city that failed to bid for Cycle City Ambition grants worth £114 million. We did recently bid for the £10 million “Go Low Ultra Cities Scheme” but failed because we lacked ambition to deliver on air pollution and the policies and strategies required were not in place.
After court action, our disinterested Tory government has to produce a draft action plan by April 24th for failing to act to bring air pollution within legal limits. Sheffield may get some handouts in that plan. After that, further progress depends on making the most of funding opportunities as they come up.
Sheffield needs to be more open. honest and informative about our air pollution problems. Greens recognise that outside funding is needed to tackle this public health crisis as councils lose all their governments grants by 2020. Sheffield is losing out in competitive bids because we lack a current action plan with strong objectives which is clearly being acted upon. It doesn’t matter if that plan comes via a Green or Labour council motion – we just need it as soon as possible.
Sheffield Green Party