Clean Air Zones

Department for Transport written question – answered on 15th February 2021.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government, in relation to the Clean Air Zones Central Services (Fees) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1444), what restrictions there are on the amount that local authorities can charge different types of non-compliant vehicles which enter a clean air zone; whether local authorities can retain such charges; whether local authorities are required to use the central services set out in these regulations; and what is the charge per transaction for the use of these services payable to the Department of Transport.

Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The purpose of this instrument is to enable the Secretary of State to charge local authorities in England for using the Clean Air Zones Central Services (“CAZ Central Services”). The Government is creating the Services to support the practical implementation of Clean Air Zones (“CAZs”). A CAZ is an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality, which can include a charging scheme. The CAZ Central Services are national infrastructure services that can be used to administer CAZ charging schemes and include a digital service (including the ability to make payments online) and technical and customer contact support. a) What restrictions, if any, are there on the amount that local authorities can charge different types of non-compliant vehicles which enter a Clean Air Zone.

The ability for charging authorities to introduce a charging scheme, and therefore a Clean Air Zone, is set out in the Transport Act 2000. Part 3 of the Act empowers local authorities (as “charging authorities”) to make a local charging scheme in respect of the use or keeping of motor vehicles on roads.

Charge levels for non-compliant vehicles (those that do not meet the requirements of that particular Clean Air Zone) should be set appropriately based on the local circumstances of the local authority and should consider the behaviour change needed to deliver the ambitions for the zone; the local economic and social factors of the zone and surrounding areas; and the operational costs of running a scheme. There are no restrictions on the amount that local authorities can charge but local authorities should not set the level of charge as a revenue raising measure. b) Whether local authorities can retain such charges.

Under the Transport Act 2000 the net proceeds of any charging schemes made under the Act can be retained but are only available to the local authority for the purpose of facilitating the achievement of its local transport policies. This can include the promotion of cycling and walking and other sustainable transport alternatives. A local authority has to give an indication of their plans for use of net proceeds in the Charge Scheme Orders that establish their road user charging schemes. This is a legal requirement that comes from the Transport Act 2000 powers, where the local authority has to relate their decision back to the relevant Transport Plan. c) Whether local authorities are required to use the Central Services set out in these Regulations, and what is the charge per transaction for the use of these services payable to the Department for Transport.

Local authorities are not required to use the CAZ Central Services and can choose to use an alternative service provider if it does not negatively impact upon the time in which it takes to achieve compliance with legal levels for air quality (value for money must also be considered). Local authorities that use the service, will be charged a transaction charge of £2 for each CAZ charge that is processed through the Services (when a motorist uses the CAZ Central Services to successfully pay a CAZ charge imposed by a charging scheme made by the local authority, for driving in a zone).

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