Rarely do you see central London boroughs of different political colours unite for their residents. Central London’s poor air quality, however, has managed to bring together the unlikely union of City of Westminster, Camden Council and City of London Corporation.
These three local authorities represent half a million Londoners in the air pollution hotspot of London, and cut across the political divide between Labour and Conservative. They have done all they can to tackle the problem and are now appealing to the Mayor of London who has powers over bus investment; regulation of taxis and air pollution responsibilities covering the capital. All three believe Mayor Boris Johnson has a real opportunity to deliver significant improvements in the air quality of central London and to this end, wrote to the Mayor thinking he would seize this opportunity.
And how did he respond? Disappointingly . He restated what he’d done in his first term, and lacked enthusiasm for the modest proposals put forward by the three Councils to go further in his second term. Their achievable wish list included a better deployment of retrofitted buses in central London, age limits on taxis with the offer of a car scrappage scheme, and a fifth phase of the Mayor’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) which would cover black carbon and PM 2.5’s for pollutants currently not registered. But, the Mayor remained unmoved.
Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise. His manifesto for his second term had no commitments to improving air quality despite its huge health impact on Londoners, being responsible for 4,300 premature deaths every year. Poor air quality is the second biggest public health issue after smoking in London. It is scandalous that the Mayor is adopting a laissez-faire approach to an issue which affects every single living, breathing organism in this city. As these three councils have recognised, more needs to be done.
If you’d like to view the latest exchange I had with the Mayor at Mayor’s Question Time, see here. Scroll down to London Assembly meeting 19 September 2012 and view webcast at 51 minutes.
A extended version of the blog can be found in an article for the CNJ this week.