Bristol City Council to spend millions in Clean Air Zone charges on repairing potholes and pavements

A view of Bristol City Centre Credit: PA

Bristol City Council is planning to spend over £2 million, received from charging drivers in the Clean Air Zone, on repairing roads and pavements.

But some councillors have argued that the income raised by the scheme “shouldn’t be spent” on business-as-usual roadworks.

Next month long-awaited figures should be published revealing how much drivers have paid the council in charges and fines for the Clean Air Zone, expected to be in the millions of pounds. Figures covering the impact on air pollution should also be published then, too.

Until then, councillors have agreed to spend “the majority” of net income on new projects encouraging people to walk, cycle or take public transport instead of drive, during a full council meeting on December 12. However, this means some cash could still be spent on fixing potholes.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Andrew Brown said: “Spending the funds on business-as-usual transport measures goes against the spirit of the CAZ, as it’s not primarily a revenue-generating measure.

These funds should be treated by the council as a windfall and used to accelerate progress to a greener and cleaner city.

“We should be able to point to specific projects and say ‘this walkway, that cycle lane, this bus route have been made possible thanks to CAZ’.

"We should be able to demonstrate that the money CAZ raises is making a positive contribution to how people can traverse the city in a way that improves the environment for everyone.

“Subsuming the revenue into everyday expenditure will do nothing except increase the cynicism among our residents.

"To do so is short-sighted as these funds will diminish over time, as greater compliance is obtained, and may — subject to decisions by future administrations — fall away altogether.”

According to budget proposals, about £6.3 million in income from the Clean Air Zone would be given to the West of England Combined Authority to spend on subsidised bus routes.

The transport levy from councils funds bus services which are socially important but unprofitable. £2.3 million would be spent on repairing roads and footpaths, including improved lighting.

One issue with the Clean Air Zone since it launched in November last year is the lack of data made available to the public.

This means only a few people know whether the charges have been successful in reducing air pollution, as well as how many people are charged or fined.

Green Cllr Ed Plowden said: “The lack of data means we haven’t been able to provide any reassurance to anxious residents worried about traffic displaced onto their residential streets.

"The [Clean Air Zone] from conception to operation has been shrouded in as much secrecy as possible. We support anything that makes it more transparent in its ongoing operation, monitoring effects, and the use of the resulting revenue.”

Councillors voted unanimously to approve a golden motion put forward by the Liberal Democrats on how to spend money raised by the Clean Air Zone.

The motion pledged to spend the majority of income on new projects encouraging people to walk, cycle or take public transport. But Labour said there was a blur between new and existing projects.

Labour Cllr Don Alexander, cabinet member for transport, said: “New projects always take the opportunity to upgrade existing infrastructure.

"Maintenance projects, like lights and signals, rarely place like for like but bring in the latest technology.

“Transport projects are not bought off the shelf like bags of sugar. They are the product of a multi-disciplinary pipeline which generally takes years of work.

"What we need for that pipeline is predictable finance and a government that is interested in providing nationally the skills that are sometimes known to be lacking."

Credit: Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service.