Mayor Andy Burnham has accused Boris Johnson of ‘playing dishonest politics’ after the Prime Minister branded the Clean Air Zone proposal ‘thoughtless’.
Mr Burnham has also demanded that the Prime Minister urgently tell Greater Manchester once and for all if a Clean Air Zone is legally required by the Secretary of State to bring air pollution down to safe levels.
Speaking in the House of Commons of the temporarily suspended scheme to charge high-emission vehicles in Greater Manchester, Mr Johnson said: “As somebody who once had to deal with a badly thought out emission zone, it is totally wrong to impose measures thoughtlessly that damage business and don’t do very much to protect clean air.
“I think the Mayor of Manchester has done the wrong thing and I’m glad that we’re delaying.”
Mr Johnson was replying to a question from Bury South MP James Daly on whether the proposal – aimed at bringing nitrogen dioxide down to safe and legal levels – was based on ‘flawed data’ and should be scrapped.
Now Mr Burnham, who has said previously that he is ‘open to any solution’ that might cut pollution to legal levels without jeopardising jobs, has responded to the Prime Minister, and in no uncertain terms.
In a statement he said: “The Prime Minister has got to stop playing dishonest politics with the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone.
“Only three weeks ago, his Government imposed a new legal direction on our councils mandating action.
“Yet today he pretends in Parliament that those letters were never sent.
“We will not put up with this any longer.
“We can’t have Ministers saying things to us in private which are then flatly contradicted by the Prime Minister at the Despatch Box. Are the Government requiring Greater Manchester to have a Clean Air Zone or not? They must give a straight answer to that question and they must do it today.”
The Manchester Evening News has asked the Department for Transport for comment.
The CAZ would have seen a £60 charge for HGVs, buses and coaches, £10 for vans and £7.50 for taxis and private hire cars.
But after a major public backlash, the government agreed to move the deadline it set for Greater Manchester to lower air pollution below legal limits by two years to 2026.
Greater Manchester leaders are now working with the government to design a ‘substantially different’ scheme which could come into force as soon as July.
The delay has rendered more than a thousand CAZ signs across the city-region inaccurate as they state a start date of May 30.
Greater Manchester leaders are currently negotitiating a price to alter them with stickers to read ‘under review’.