A DAILY penalty could be imposed on certain vehicles using the region's roads by next year. Local Democracy Reporter JOSEPH TIMAN looks at the battle behind the bid to tackle air pollution.

FINES of up to £100 could still be imposed on lorries, buses and taxis across the regions' roads as soon as 2021 despite delays and uncertainty over a government-funded vehicle scrappage scheme.

The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone would be rolled out across almost all roads except for motorways if the proposal goes ahead – but progress has stalled.

So far, the government has only committed to spending £36m on enforcement cameras and "back office costs" despite demands of more than £116m to help clean up the most polluting vehicles.

Bolton Council could pull out of the proposal if the demands are not met by the government – but the local authority faces the prospect of being sued for having illegal levels of pollution if the issue is not addressed adequately.

Councillors are concerned about the scheme and the impact it will have on small businesses, taxi drivers and the cost of bus fares.

Most doubt that the region will receive sufficient funding from the government and some suspect the scheme will never happen.

But Cllr Anne Galloway, executive cabinet member for environmental regulatory services at Bolton Council, told councillors in a cabinet meeting last week that she believes the money is coming.

She said: “The £36m is the only sum of money that’s been guaranteed so far, but more money is going to be coming. The ask has been made but it has not been met yet. More money is coming. It’s just that we don’t know how much. We have not signed on the dotted line. We are waiting to see what the government is going to give to us.

"I heard Boris Johnson. Clearly, clean air is on the agenda – it’s not just about Brexit. The green agenda is very much a priority for all parties."

Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes described Cllr Galloway's faith in funding as "admirable" but said he and other opposition councillors do not share that.

The Conservative cabinet member explained that the scheme had been delayed "greatly" because the General Election postponed decisions on government funding.

But despite the delays, a public consultation on the scheme should take place later this year, with a report due in spring.

UKIP leader Sean Hornby said the speed at which the scheme is being implemented is "worrying".

Labour's spokesman for the environment, Cllr Nick Peel, accused the government of "passing the buck" onto local authorities after receiving a legal challenge from environmental law charity Client Earth.

He said: “The way the government has handled this has been nothing short of cack-handed.

"We have always been very clear, and there’s a lot of evidence forming around this, the quickest way [to deal with pollution] would be a fully-funded vehicle scrappage scheme.

“If we put up £36m worth of cameras within the county and within just a couple of years of that when all vehicles are compliant, are the cameras taken down or are they used for another purpose? If it’s about some other similar charging scheme, then we should all be worried.”

Speaking after the cabinet meeting, council leader David Greenhalgh said: “We recognise that this is an important issue, but in order to deal with it effectively we will need to know what resources we have available. This will become clear after the Chancellor announces the budget in March. Once we have this information, we will be able to make an informed decision about how best to reduce air pollution in our area and whether or not we are prepared to support the proposal of a Greater Manchester wide plan.”

A government spokesman said: “We are helping local authorities tackle air pollution in towns and cities across the country. We have already provided Greater Manchester with an initial £36m to support a new clean air zone, and we continue to work with them to further progress these plans to a final stage. We will consider next steps in due course.”

Clean Air Zone: who pays and how much?

The most polluting commercial vehicles would face a daily penalty when driving on most of Greater Manchester's roads, according to the latest proposal.

Heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches would be charged £100 daily from 2021, while taxis, private hire vehicles and light goods vehicles would pay £7.50 per day, as it stands.

In an outline business case submitted to the government last year, local authorities suggested allowing an exemption for vans until 2023.

It also asked for more than £116m to help retro-fit and replace non-compliant vehicles.

But the government has only committed to £36m of funding for enforcement cameras so far and said that the charges should be implemented from 2021 for all commercial vehicles.

The scheme is a response to the government instructing councils to reduce harmful Nitrogen Dioxide levels.

Cities such as Leeds and Birmingham have already implemented a Clean Air Zone.

But motorways and some major A roads which are managed by Highways England have not received the same instruction to set up a scheme.

Local authorities across Greater Manchester have also written to the government to ask for tougher fines on people who leave their engines running while parked.