Cash-strapped councils breaking the law on air pollution, documents reveal

It has been described as a “public health emergency” responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every year, but dozens of local councils have been failing to report on air pollution as required by law for years.

The revelation, based on documents obtained under Freedom of Information rules, casts doubt on local authorities’ ability to play their part in the Government’s new draft Air Quality Plan – its third attempt to meet minimum safety standards after repeatedly being taken to court by campaigners.

Ministers had sought to delay publication of the plan until after the general election, with a Government lawyer arguing it would drop a “controversial bomb” on the campaign.

But a judge ordered ministers to comply with a court-ordered deadline and the resultant plan was duly derided as “feeble” and “much weaker” than expected.

Public concern about air pollution has been growing. A new survey for The Independent found the majority of the public is now in favour of banning the most-polluting vehicles from city centres.

Some 51 per cent of respondents agreed with this suggestion, with only 15 per cent against and the remainder not expressing a view, pollsters ORB said.

A majority of Conservative voters (53 per cent) were in favour, suggesting Theresa May could be vulnerable to criticism about air quality. Support was highest among Liberal Democrats (64 per cent) with 54 per cent of Labour supporters also backing the idea.

It comes amid warnings from the World Health Organisation, MPs and doctors’ groups that it is causing an estimated 40,000 premature deaths in the UK and millions worldwide, and is exacerbating a host of conditions including heart disease, asthma and possibly even dementia.

The Government’s latest Air Quality Plan sought to pass the buck to a large degree to councils, saying they were “best placed to take the lead”.

However, the council documents, obtained by the DeSmog UK environmental news…

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