Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham is facing a severe backlash from businesses around Greater Manchester with many saying his plans to penalise private vehicle owners will ‘cripple’ the region.
Bus companies, such as Stagecoach, have been vocal in their opposition to the £60 daily charge that will hit its operations as of May this year, but now, as publicity around the scheme grows, small business owners vented their fury, notably at a BBC Radio Manchester phone in.
Host of the phone in and radio veteran, Mike Sweeney, stated on air he’d never received as many calls in a career spanning decades as he had done about this topic. On the phone in, labourers, construction workers, landscapers, caterers and more all said the £10 daily charge for vans would massively hinder their business models.
Taxi drivers also vented their fury at the £7.50 daily charge, with many long-standing cabbies saying this would be the final nail in the coffin, given how margins had been squeezed by disruptors such as Uber and ongoing fuel price rises.
And all of this is just a few years after Burnham himself told the MEN “"I’m not going to implement that charge on car users. I want to make this really clear - there will never be any charge on individual motorists.”
The bad publicity has not gone down well with Burnham. One critic, who previously stated he’d attend the opening of an envelope if a photo opportunity presented itself, said his scheme that appears to be penalising the hard workers he’s supposed to support can be, at best, deemed to be hypocritical.
In his own justification, Burnham has said his hands were essentially tied by a central Government directive that ordered Greater Manchester to implement the CAZ (Clean Air Zone) following a Supreme Court ruling that they had failed to protect people from polluted air. The ruling itself said this must be in place by 2024.
It’s aimed at saving the lives of an estimated 1,200 people each year whose deaths are at least partially caused by pollution.
And although business users undoubtedly feel hard done by, it’s not like Burnham won’t have at least some backing – but much like the contentious issues of recent times, support appears split.
In last year’s clean air survey, 50% of Regit’s users said they would support the introduction of a ULEZ or CAZ in their towns and cities.
For more information on the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone, read our summary here.