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Opinion: hypocrisy and the diesel surcharge gasoline-175122_1280 - Islington will introduce a diesel surcharge in April Full view

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

Islington will introduce a diesel surcharge in April
Islington will introduce a diesel surcharge in April

 

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.

Written by Kim Statzner

Kim is a third-year Journalism and Psychology student from Cologne in Germany. She has lived in London for the last two years and is aspiring to become an online journalist. @KimStatzner

4 Comments

  • Whilst we are not in the St John Street district we are of course in Islington and on Friday 13th March, Ockendon road residents supported and presented a protest to Islington Council objecting to the unfair and illogical diesel surcharge due to be imposed from April 1st.

    Briefly, our protest objects to lack of notice, the apparent blanket coverage of all diesel vehicles despite the low-emission vehicles the Government once encouraged us to buy, and the inadequate explanation of how this surcharge is actually going to help protect Islington residents from the toxic diesel fumes.

    We are all for tackling this problem, action is way overdue but as your last sentence implies, this course of action only serves to alienate not bring residents on side. We are only representing one road in Islington but there must be many others who object to this absurd surcharge

    Reply
  • Hi I think you left in the editor’s comments next to the line about fining themselves – check it out!

    Reply
  • Has anyone raised a petition? We should not be penalised. We should be given reasonable time; they encouraged us to buy diesel; maybe they should compensate us! I changed my old 3ltr petrol car for a diesel for economy and the cost of my parking permit was reduced as the co2 was lower with diesel. How can Islington council charge us a tax when they are operating the majority of their fleet on diesel! Outrageous.

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