ANDY Burnham has claimed that there will never be a congestion charge in Greater Manchester while he is mayor.

Appearing on the latest segment of ‘In the Hotseat’ on BBC radio Manchester, the majority of questions from listeners related to the latest plans for a new model of GM’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ). The core aspect of the new plan would eradicate the charges for any vehicle driving within the CAZ.

The original proposals were scrapped almost two years ago following huge public backlash and after months and months of delays, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has provided an update ahead of the Clean Air Zone committee meeting today (Wednesday, December 20).

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Leigh Journal: The Clean Air Zone has caused controversy across Greater ManchesterThe Clean Air Zone has caused controversy across Greater Manchester (Image: LDRS)
Previously, vans, taxis, buses and coaches that were not compliant with emission regulations would be charged daily rates for driving through the clean air zones. New plans would see that scrapped and include a request for £86.7m government investment.

This money would go towards paying for zero-emission electric buses, grants for cleaner taxis, and measures to manage traffic flow on the busier roads in the centre of Manchester and Salford.

Speaking to listeners alongside radio host Mike Sweeney last week, Mr Burnham explained that the working class would never get behind the strategy which led to them being out of pocket. 

He told listeners: “I don’t think we’ll get working class people behind the drive to net zero if it’s about tax, charges, bans on things – basically making their lives suffer more. The only way we can do it is to give people incentives to do the right thing. 

“Give them heat pumps for their homes or lower price public transport.”

This led him to make the bold statement, live on air, that he would never introduce charges for vehicles whilst he was mayor. 

Leigh Journal: Andy Burnham said that the working class will never get behind a charging zoneAndy Burnham said that the working class will never get behind a charging zone (Image: GMCA)

Giving more reasoning behind the change of heart on CAZ, he added: “I did think about it really carefully, it wasn’t just a knee jerk reaction. All of our health does suffer if we’re breathing in very polluted air, but at the same time you’ve got to think about mental health alongside physical health. 

“If a policy had been introduced where people on the lowest incomes felt like that might move them from viability to bankruptcy, that would have a health impact.”

Addressing the signage and camera surveillance already put in place preparing for CAZ coming in before the original plan was scrapped, Mr Burnham explained it still has uses. In the case of the cameras, he understood why people want them gone, but explained that they have already played a vital role in helping the police solve serious crimes. 

He added that he would go further on this and would like to see Greater Manchester Police given ‘real-time access’ to the cameras in order to aid live cases. 

“There is no way on God’s green earth I am going to say, ‘let’s not give GMP access to that information’,” Mr Burnham told listeners.

The new plan is expected to go before the Greater Manchester Air Quality Administration Committee on December 20, where it is recommended for approval. After that, Mr Burnham’s new plan will be taken to Westminster where he hopes it will receive government support.