Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mayoral Runners Told They Have No Power to Halt Clean Air Charges

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mayoral Runners Told They Have No Power to Halt Clean Air Charges

Article excerpt

Byline: DANIEL HOLLAND Local Democracy Reporter

ONE of Newcastle's top council bosses has taken aim at the North of Tyne mayoral candidates over their opposition to a new clean air toll set to hit drivers.

All four of the candidates confirmed in the mayoral race at the time voiced their anger at the road charge plans last week, with Conservative Charlie Hoult vowing to fight his own government and Labour's Jamie Driscoll opposing his own council's plans.

But Joyce McCarty, deputy Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, has rebuked the men vying to become the North of Tyne Combined Authority's new figurehead - stressing that the mayor will have no authority to stop the tolls being imposed.

Coun McCarty said that the strict deadlines being enforced by the government for local councils to cut pollution mean that radical action, in the form of a charge, will be needed, rather than relying on long-term alternatives like public transport improvements.

She told a full council meeting: "The air quality consultation is a joint process between three councils that seeks to take action to solve a public health emergency facing Newcastle and Tyneside. It is a problem we cannot ignore, it contributes to hundreds of deaths a year and it is time we faced up to it.

"The council would prefer to use a wide range of measures to tackle this, but the Government has made clear, as a result of a High Court ruling, that councils must act fast and the preference for this is charging to use polluted roads.

"The powers the government is relying on for these charges can only be introduced by councils. There are no powers under law for mayors or combined authorities to impose or block air quality measures. The legislation only empowers highways authorities, which the combined authority is not and will not be."

Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Gateshead councils - only two of which are part of the new mayoral North of Tyne Combined Authority - have been ordered by the Government to reduce toxic emissions levels by 2021. …

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