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Council hits back at Whitehall’s ‘woefully inadequate’ Clean Air Strategy

A major council has today slammed the government’s Clean Air Strategy that was released yesterday, branding it “woefully inadequate”.

The £3bn strategy, designed to control pollution generated by cars in Britain, outlined a number of initiatives to drive environmental stability, including a £225m fund to help local authorities “accelerate development of their plans”.

It also set out the government’s ambition to scrap new diesel and petrol cars from 2040, although some critics stated that action needed to be taken to improve the nation’s air in a shorter timeframe than this.

Sheffield City Council has now reacted angrily to the strategy, which it argues contains no coherent plans for areas with high pollution and does not put in place infrastructure investment at the scale that is needed to improve dangerous air.

“Air pollution is a public health emergency, causing around 40,000 deaths per year, with around 500 of those in Sheffield,” said Cllr Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and sustainability.

“The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens from harm. This government is obviously failing in that role and unfairly passing the buck on to local councils, whilst cutting the money we need to address pollution problems.”

The Sheffield cabinet member also said that he was “highly sceptical” that the government’s announcement even meets their legal duties on air quality, arguing that its response had instead been “woefully inadequate”.

“Whilst I welcome any financial support that can help us to make faster improvements, particularly to improve our bus fleet, today’s announcements are especially disappointing given that last week the government broke its promise on the electrification of Midland Main Line, which would have made a big difference to pollution,” Cllr Scott explained.

“Whilst I am pleased the government seem to be waking up to the scale of the problem, today’s announcement is entirely lacking in action, funding and leadership. Sheffield City Council will continue to do everything in its power to tackle air pollution despite today’s disappointments.”

Greg Fell, director of public health at the local authority, said it was a great shame that the government had decided to localise what is instead a national problem.

“Air quality is a massive risk to our future health and we need to tackle it together, smartly, effectively and with financial support,” he said. “We take our responsibility seriously in this area and look forward to stronger action from national government.

“We are disappointed that the government seems to have ignored the evidence on what interventions would have greatest impact.”

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