Opinion: hypocrisy and the diesel surcharge
Diesel car owners will face an additional charge of £96 per year on their parking permits to reduce Islington’s pollution levels. Meanwhile nearly 90% of the council’s fleet still runs on diesel. They should be the first to set a good example, writes Kim Statzner
Pollution is a problem not just in Islington, but in many London boroughs. In 2008, the government estimated that 4,267 deaths in London were due to long-term exposure to small particles.
Diesel fuel, while cheaper, is especially harmful. According to Islington Council, diesel vehicles emit four times more nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and 22 times more particulate matter (PM10) than petrol vehicles.
So it seems logical to reduce the number of diesel cars as much as possible. After all we all want to avoid deadly fumes.
Islington council decided to tackle this problem by introducing an extra charge of £8 per month on diesel car owner’s parking permits.
Cllr. Claudia Webbe, Islington’s executive member for transport and environment, told the Islington Gazette: “The costs to residents to change their vehicle is no mean feat so we want to give them time. As a councillor for a ward that will be effected by the ULEZ [Ultra Low Emissions Zone] I know how important it is to give residents time to change, but hopefully this surcharge will give residents an incentive to change their vehicles.”
There is definitely time until the launch of the ULEZ in 2020. The parking permit charges, however, will be introduced this April. While £8 a month does not seem that much at first glance, keeping in mind all the other costs of running a car, it can be a burden for Islingtonians.
Shouldn’t we have some time to actually consider if we want to change to a different car? A charge will not reduce any dangerous fumes, if no one actually has the opportunity to sell their diesel vehicle. For the first few months at least this will only mean additional money for the council.
Still, the greatest hypocrisy in this effort to be more environmentally friendly is that the council does not set a good example itself. Information gained from a Freedom of Information request by the Islington Gazette revealed that the council’s fleet of 378 vehicles includes 333 that run on diesel. Of course the new charges will not affect them at all – they won’t be fining themselves.
Confronted with this, Webbe told the Islington Gazette that the town hall had one of the cleanest council fleets in London but was committed to further improvement. “We’re currently exploring various options with regards to moving away from diesel vehicles in the future by exploring what the market has to offer, and watching future developments,” she said.
This vague statement fails to be convincing and it seems like the council’s fleet will not change for a long time, and most certainly not by April.
Cllr. Caroline Russell, the council’s sole opposition, at least sees the unfairness in this arrangement: “It is crucial that the council sets out a clear timetable to update its own fleet. It is not OK to have one rule for residents and another for the council.”
I agree with her. Reducing pollution is in everybody’s interest and should be encouraged. But simply alienating residents can not be the goal here.