26 February 2016
Last night, the Labour dominated Islington Council voted down an amendment to the council’s annual budget from sole opposition councillor, Caroline Russell, that would have cleaned up Islington’s polluted air.
Since the launch of the council’s own policy to ask drivers who park on Islington’s roads with their engines running to switch them off in July 2014, not a single fine has been issued and there have been no officers to enforce the ruling and to educate drivers on the damage idling engines does to the health of Islington’s residents.
Councillor Russell’s amendment to the 2016-17 budget would have increased the cost of ‘pay and display’ parking by 3.99%; the same amount that the borough’s council tax is set to increase by. The estimated £280k additional income would have been used to fund measures to cut pollution.
Two additional enforcement officers would cost approximately £90k and would be used to implement the council’s vehicle engine idling policy.
The remaining funding, £190k, would have been used to support active travel by providing approximately 48 on-street bike hangars each one containing six secure bike parking spaces. Installing 48 hangars would have put three in every Islington ward. This would equate to 288 new secure bike parking spaces across the borough.
The budget amendment was voted down by every single Labour councillor including Islington Council Leader Richard Watts who said of the budget amendment that he did not think that reducing engine idling would have much of an effect on reducing the borough’s air pollution levels and that Transport for London should fund bike hangars in Islington. He also said that small businesses would be harmed if pay and display charges went up by the proposed 3.99%.
Caroline Russell commented: “This is a missed opportunity to tackle Islington’s worsening and harmful pollution. Just this past week the Royal College of Physicians issued a report setting out the dangerous impact air pollution has on our health, calling on Local Authorities to support walking and cycling and discourage car-use to reduce the escalating air pollution health cost to the NHS. My amendment would have done just that.
“The councillors had a chance last night to raise funds from those causing the pollution by adding pennies to the cost of a pay and display parking ticket. Cllr watts does not appear to understand what makes a high street tick. Small businesses and shops benefit when more people walk and cycle. The proposed pay and display increase would see a £3 parking charge increase to £3.12; just pennies. But they would add up to £280k per annum allowing the council to allocate officer time to educating drivers about the risk to their health and the health of others of letting their engine idle while parked.
“The council made a huge deal of their anti engine-idling policy back in 2014 but not a single fine has been issued and no staff are allocated to implement it, so it is a policy that is all words and no substance.
“However, I was delighted to hear Cllr Watts say he has changed his mind on the desirability of bike hangars and that the council should access TfL funding for them. I've been calling for this ever since I was elected and had worked up the amendment as a way of getting round the council's refusal to install any.”