An attempt to delay the expansion of Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) to help the struggling taxi business has failed.
The next phase of the city’s LEZ is due to come into effect on May 31 this year, but with a “one-year grace period” until June 2023. A new grace period is proposed for residents of the LEZ, until June 2024.
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A total of 134 objections to the rollout were received, including 123 from the taxi industry, and figures show that in December last year just over a quarter of taxis were LEZ compliant – 395 out of 1419.
The city’s Labor group had proposed pushing back enforcement of the zone until June 2024, but lost in a close vote.
He said the taxi industry has been decimated due to the covid pandemic and drivers need more time to prepare their cars.
Plans to widen the scope of Glasgow’s LEZ – designed to tackle air pollution in the city center – to include all vehicles from June 1, 2023 have now progressed. The first phase of the LEZ only concerned local service buses.
Phase two proposals will be submitted to the council’s city administration committee on Thursday for approval and will then be sent to Scottish ministers.
At the environment committee, deputy leader of the Glasgow Labor Party, Eva Murray, called for the application to be delayed to recognize “more fairly” “the impacts of the pandemic on the taxi business”.
She said: “There needs to be recognition of the additional struggles that have been faced over the past two years, particularly in relation to those who work in our taxi business.
“We have to recognize that many of our hackney taxi drivers are unable to afford an upgrade or the purchase of new vehicles due to the decimation of the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“A delay would allow drivers to get compliant vehicles, or we could face another crisis in our city’s taxi industry.”
The amendment, backed by Labor and Conservative advisers, was defeated seven to five, with SNP and Green advisers in favor of continuing the rollout in 2023.
A council officer said there was ‘no doubt’ the taxi business had ‘had a particularly difficult time’ but additional support funds had been made available to improve vehicles.
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He said drivers could receive 80 per cent of the costs up to a maximum of £5,000 and Transport Scotland said the total cost of the renovations was just under £7,000.
Cllr Chris Cunningham, SNP, said: ‘This is an issue that has not occurred to anyone, we have been dealing with it for many years now and taxi drivers have been warned time and time again to engage in the process.
“I wonder what signal we are sending if we delay implementing this to taxi drivers who have made the effort to upgrade their taxis or ensure their taxis are compliant, perhaps by buying new ones. new.”
Council leader Susan Aitken said she had ‘huge sympathy’ for the taxi business but was ‘concerned’ if ‘we continue to expand, then is there still an argument in favor of extension?”.
“We know air pollution kills people in Glasgow, it kills people every year. How many people continue to die or get sick or have exacerbated existing chronic conditions the longer we delay this? »
However, Cllr Matt Kerr, Labor, said: ‘I was one of those people who was very keen on introducing an LEZ faster and I make no apologies for taking that position at the time.
“I think the LEZ is a good policy, it’s a policy we have to move forward with. The difficulty is the events, we now have a taxi business that has grown from a reasonably successful business to a trade on the brink of collapse, and there are wider implications to that.
He said the effect on people’s livelihoods needed to be taken into account and the hospitality sector is “likewise on its knees and there are workers in this sector who currently cannot return. work because they can’t take a taxi because the drivers are leaving”. exchange”.
Cllr Anna Richardson, SNP, the city’s organizer for sustainability and lower carbon emissions, welcomed the progress made in the full deployment of the LEZ.
She said: “Seeking to restrict the area’s most polluting vehicles is the right thing to do to ensure we mitigate the disproportionate impacts of air pollution on the most vulnerable in our society.
“As we move towards full implementation, there will be continued publicity of the program and we will continue to support a wide range of projects and initiatives that facilitate compliance with the LEZ, including those that encourage levels higher levels of active and more sustainable travel and reduced reliance on private vehicles. »