Please, Birmingham City Council … rethink the Clean Air Zone’s timing and fining

As the city rushes into the new Clean Air Zone era, Westside business leader MIKE OLLEY asks its leaders to slow down its introduction, and to make sure they don’t fine people twice for one journey.

Well done, Birmingham City Council. On the business recovery front, you have done just marvellous.

The boring truth is that the city council has impressed me with their stalwart support for business and its vital recovery. May I add that is not just well-crafted speeches from the politicians; the council officials’ actions and follow-on efforts have been very pleasing.

But the pandemic has kicked business about harshly. And I can’t figure out why the city council, with its hitherto exemplary record of business recovery, is now seeking to damage that track record. The introductory of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is not welcome at this time. Give it six months please. Business needs that. Business is in bad shape. That’s self-evident.

An extra six months, please, and that will give the “recovery” bit of business recovery time to work through. In six months or so, the shiny new tram will be running along Broad Street. That will give some a suitable alternative for those who can’t afford the CAZ charges.

Plus, given the long time the city council has been planning this CAZ, I have no doubt that they have a cunning plan to introduce an integrated public transport scheme too. For, of course, only a proper public transportation system in Birmingham will be the complete answer to supporting the CAZ.

I have no doubt the Secretary of State would grant an extension to allow for business recovery. May I make another point. The CAZ was designed by the council and its plan agreed by the Secretary of State. I fear, however, the plan was floored.

The Night-Time Economy (NTE) is a very popular notion. When I mention it and the contribution it makes to the overall economy, which is massive, it is rightly well received. People get very enthusiastic when this is mentioned. They get very supportive. They get very welcoming.

Sadly, that enthusiasm is not always converted into a practical application. The problem is, all this support – which is genuinely well-meaning and encouraging – doesn’t convert to assistance for the NTE.

The CAZ will penalise people on a night out with the wrong (or right) sort of car. Indeed, it will doubly penalise them. Go out at half nine at night and you get slapped with a £8 fine. Come home at half past two in the morning and you get another £8 fine.

I don’t feel those who designed this system sought to doubly penalise punters out for a good night out. They just didn’t think it through. Therefore, could I make another plea?

On top of delaying the CAZ for six months, could the council use its clever technology to allow these dirty old cars a 24-hour time slot. It changes nothing. It just makes it far better for the NTE.

Therefore, my open plea to those in the council who have put together the application to the government. Please, an extra six-month extension to take account of the pandemic. Plus, we know you support the NTE, so please give us 24-hour time slots. Thank you.

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