Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham puts out statement addressing clean air zone

Greater Manchester's Mayor Andy Burnham has released a personal statement addressing his involvement with the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) and claims about his wife.

It follows what he calls "disgraceful" statements and "serious allegations" made online by those opposed to the controversial scheme.

In the lengthy statement, issued on Friday, 18 February, he denies either him or his wife owning shares an electric car charging company, and stresses that he had no involvement in the decision making aspect of the CAZ.

The statement comes after the CAZ was delayed at the start of February 2020.

The scheme that was set to charge motorists to enter Greater Manchester's city region was due to come into operation at the end of May in an attempt to reduce harmful air pollution.

Taxi drivers and small business owners said the additional charges created by the CAZ could kill their business, and have complained that they are not being offered enough assistance to buy new lower-emission vehicles.

Now rollout of Greater Manchester’s clean air zone has been delayed.

In the statement Mr Burnham starts by addressing rumors that have surfaced about his wife's financial affairs.

He said his wife, Marie-France van Heel, works for a small marketing and brand agency called Heavenly, with one of their clients is Iduna Infrastructure Limited.

Iduna owns Amey MAP Services Limited, which has a contract with Transport for Greater Manchester to maintain and grow the region’s electric vehicle charging network.

Mr Burnham said "Marie-France has no direct financial relationship with Iduna. She does not own any shares in them and does not receive any bonus nor incentive payments from them."

He went on to say he declared his "small conflict of interest" and removed himself from any decision-making, so that there could be "no perception of a conflict of interest nor any suggestion of privileged information being misused".

The Clean Air Zone was due to be introduced in Greater Manchester in May 2022, but has been delayed while another solution can be sought.

The Greater Manchester Mayor confirmed neither he or his wife owns any shares in any company and receive no income other than their salaries.

Andy Burnham went on to address his role in planning for the CAZ, saying plans for the zone were already in the works before he was elected Mayor, adding he never had a formal decision-making role.

He said he has worked to support councils and try to make the "best of a difficult policy situation".

He went on to say "With hindsight, it is obvious that a scheme designed in pre-pandemic times was not going to work in the post-pandemic era.

"Whilst I was distracted by the need to respond to the pandemic, I accept that I should have woken up earlier to the coming problems.

"I also believe the communications about the CAZ have not been good enough throughout and I take responsibility for that."

While Mr Burnham acknowledged things may not have gone "quite the way he wanted them" he still feels that something needs to be done about the city's air quality.

He said "I cannot accept a situation where we leave some of our residents exposed to illegal air pollution.

"I support the principle of a Clean Air Zone – as long as it is fair and does not threaten people’s health in other ways by damaging jobs and livelihoods."

Mr Burnham said he decided to make the statement as he could not continue to "take political responsibility for a policy over which I do not have the final say."