London pollution vista
London pollution vista

Westminster Labour welcomes the Council’s focus on improving air quality in its draft Air Quality Action Plan. However, in the context of crippling cuts from national government which are expected to get far worse, Labour is urging the Council to come clean about how it intends to achieve its ambitions to tackle the climate emergency with insufficient resources.

Westminster City Council has concluded a consultation about its plan to improve air quality in the city. The plan has ambitions to reduce air pollution from transport and buildings, and sets out new measures to improve air quality monitoring. For the first time ever it commits Westminster to meeting WHO (World Health Organisation) targets which go beyond that which is required by UK legislation.

In addition, to calling for more resources to tackle the climate emergency, Labour argues that:

  • the Council needs to be clearer about where it will install new air quality monitoring equipment. This should include side streets and residential areas that have now been neglected.
  • it should be clearer about its vision for a Zero Emissions Zone in the West End – we welcome the proposal in principle, but local communities need to be engaged and put at the heart of any proposals
  • it needs to make faster progress in introducing freight consolidation and more needs to be done to encourage green spaces
  • too many of the goals are vague and lack detail. They should be linked to a clearer timescale and to specific departmental responsibilities
  • there needs to be a greater focus on public education about air quality and climate change so people can better understand these complex issues

Labour is also making the case for more resources to tackle the climate emergency. After Labour and local communities lobbied the Council to declare an environmental emergency in 2019, it agreed to pass a motion declaring an emergency in September last year. The Council has consequently set aside £5m to tackle the climate emergency, but Labour is arguing that far more resources will be needed.

Councillor Pancho Lewis said:

“We welcome the Council’s focus on air quality, and we are pleased they belatedly agreed to declare a climate emergency. But we will not overcome the environmental challenges we face if there continues to be financial cuts. Council funding has already been slashed by half, and there’s a real risk it will be reduced by a further 25% still. It is unthinkable what these further cuts will do to local authority services and, indeed, it will also severely hamper the environmental agenda if they’re allowed to go ahead. 

“The Council should come clean on the fact that Government cuts are undermining the environmental agenda. We will continue to press Conservatives in the Council to oppose the Government’s crippling austerity agenda.”

The Air Quality Action Plan can be accessed online here

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