Neighbouring councils told to do more to encourage greener taxis by Leeds councillor
A Leeds councillor has called on neighbouring local authorities to do more to encourage taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to switch to environmentally-friendly vehicles.
It follows the controversial scrapping of the planned Leeds’s Clean Air Charging Zone (CAZ) in the past week, which would have seen high-polluting HGVs, buses, taxis and private hire vehicles charged a fee for entering certain parts of the city.
Part of the scheme included a fund to help pay towards upgrades of taxi and private hire vehicles to more environmentally friendly models – and the council has been told it can keep around £5.5m of the fund to continue a grants and loans scheme for drivers.
A meeting of the Leeds Climate Emergency committee heard that the scheme led to a rapid increase in the proportion of environmentally friendly vehicles in the city.
But Coun Mohammed Shahzad (Lab) warned many drivers operating in Leeds had their licence with neighbouring local authorities, which had no such incentives for drivers to upgrade their vehicles.
Coun Shahzad told the meeting: “I welcome the Government has allowed us to keep the extra £5.5m, and I hope we will help taxi drivers invest in cleaner hybrid or electric vehicles – that has been a positive thing that has come out of the clean air zone.
“The only issue I have is that we have so many vehicles now from Kirklees and Calderdale and other cities parked up in our wards with their unclean fumes affecting our residents.
“If the West Yorkshire Combined Authority can actually push other councils – I know they won’t have the funding for it – but it is all good us having clean vehicles, but our vehicles are limited compared to vehicles from outside Leeds.”
Coun Shahzad added that, although the scheme did not target private car users, it was important to make sure everyone was playing their part.
He said: “I know it is a positive story that emissions have come down, but can we keep pushing those messages that it is better to get those vehicles for everyone, not just taxi drivers.
“In these times, it is a lot easier for people to make the choice going for those polluting diesel vehicles, rather than cleaner hybrid vehicles.
“Even though our air is getting better, we need to strive to make it even better if possible.”
Responding to Coun Shahzad’s comments, Leeds City Council deputy leader James Lewis (Lab) said: “In terms of other councils, our neighbours in Bradford are pursuing a clean air charging zone as well.
“I know from many conversations with the taxi and private hire industry, some members feel targeted by clean air zones, but the government have structured charging zones so that whatever option (councils) go for, every single one has taxi and private hire vehicles in it.”
Plans for the CAZ followed a ruling from the European Union in 2018 that air quality in Leeds was reaching illegal levels and needed to improve.
The scheme, funded entirely by central Government, had been expected to go live at some point during 2020, but was subject to numerous delays before a review was announced recently into whether it was still needed. The outcome of the review, out in the past week, suggested the scheme be shelved as it was unlikely pollution levels would ever again reach illegal levels in the city.