We often see that XYZ Council want to introduce ‘radical’ plans to shake up some process or other, usually some form of taxation, but when does ‘radical’ become ‘desperate’?

Bristol City Council is in “desperate need of a strategy to improve its air pollution” after already missing two government set deadlines regarding cleaning up the air pollution in the city and spending almost £1million of government funding on proposals.

And if the idiom of ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures’ is correct, it could be that Bristol City Council is on the verge of introducing some very desperate measures.

£1.65million

It’s thought that Bristol City Council have received in the region of £1.65million of government money to tackle air pollution within the city, and aside from missing two deadlines to finalise measures, it would seem that the city council have done very little, although at the estimated cost of £1million, it’s an expensive very little.

The problem with this, is that they’re now forced to take a ‘radical’ approach without too much thought or consultation as to the bigger picture, and one of the radical plans being considered is to ban all diesel vehicles entering the city between the hours 7AM to 3PM; buses, taxis, privately owned cars and of course HGVs would all come under the ban.

We already know that high parking charges have had a direct impact on city centres, with out of town shopping centres mopping up the customers that refuse to pay extortionate parking charges, but with an actual ban in place, just how much of an impact would that have on the businesses already established within the city centre?

And of course, a blanket ban on diesel would mean that all transport links (buses, taxis etc) would either have to be electric or unleaded, and that brings further costs. Bristol City Council have suggested that there may be a scrappage scheme introduced to help motorists, but again, will a scrappage scheme solve the problem, or just create further issues?

Two options

The second option being considered is for something like a ULEZ charge, but aimed purely at the commercial traffic – HGVs, taxis, delivery vans, transportation … all vehicles aside from privately owned, domestic transport. Finally, a local authority that doesn’t want the private motorist to make up the shortfall of any budget.

And yet, the question has to be asked – what would this mean for the local economy? Who would pay these extra charges in the long run? With figures of ‘up to £100’ being mentioned, where would that money come from? A shop having daily deliveries, for instance, could find themselves looking down the barrel at an extra £500 per week in charges (assuming a 5-day working week), or £26,000 a year.

Prices of goods would inevitably rise, which would mean that whether you’re catching the bus into town (which of course would also have to charge more) or driving your ULEZ charge-free car, you’d ultimately be paying for the clean air.

Targeted bans

The proposals will also include specific ‘at risk’ areas such as the Bristol Royal Infirmary and the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, which could mean that anyone using the A&E department could be hit with a bill just for the privilege, and of course, visitors, outpatients and workers would all be equally affected.

Having already spent £1million on proposals, with no results, the council have picked two plans, both seriously flawed and are opening them up to a six week public consultation, which seems like a panicked reaction rather than well-thought out plan, and that’s exactly what it is.

Surely, there should be governance in place to stop this sort of thing happening? The council will go ahead and push through a plan, any plan, in record time just to meet with a third deadline, so as they don’t need to pay back a significant amount of money, of which it seems that they’ve already spent the majority of.

Labelling the proposal as ‘radical’ is too easy; plans that hit everyone, be they motorists or not, that will see an increase in prices of basic necessities, that affect established businesses with the loss of customers, or that helps to drive consumers to out of town retail parks aren’t radical, they’re ill thought out and desperate.

The six week consultation starts on July 1st, after which, the favoured plan will be submitted to the Cabinet in September, presumably for rubber stamping, and you can be sure that regardless of how ‘radical’ they are, they’ll get the green light.

What do you think to the plans? Are BCC doing the right thing? Should a local authority be regulated so that they can’t just rush through the process in desperation? Let us know in the comments.

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