The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has said that the government’s Air Quality Grant is insufficient in helping local authorities tackle local air pollution.
The Government’s annual funding scheme enables local authorities across England to apply for a share of £6 million of government funding to deliver projects to improve air quality.
Air pollution causes a considerable burden of death and disability and costs the UK economy £22.6 billion every year. In the UK, 40,000 deaths a year are attributed to exposure to outdoor air pollution through increased risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, and cancer.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called air pollution (both indoor and outdoor): “the biggest environmental risk to health, carrying responsibility for about one in every nine deaths annually”, and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has called air pollution the “largest environmental risk to public health”.
Furthermore, many sources of air pollution also emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, tackling air pollution has a clear link to the sustainability agenda and is key to us all living cleaner, greener, healthier lives.
Local authorities play a crucial role in enforcing air quality legislation, from enforcing Smoke Control Areas to regulating permitted activities etc. However, as CIEH stated in a response to the Defra’s recent consultation on their Draft Air Quality Strategy,
“Local Authorities should be supported with resources, adequate staffing, and additional inspection capacity to enforce restrictions and reduce pollution. Large industries have made it expensive for local authorities to prosecute, and so the national Government plays an important role in supporting local authorities in enforcing regulations."
Before adding that,
“Dedicated funding should be provided to local authorities to raise awareness and increase enforcement capacity”
While CIEH support the concept of the Government’s Air Quality Grant, the relatively paltry sum of £11.6 million allocated to local authorities via the scheme pales in comparison to the vast sums of money made available to the agricultural sector to essentially self-regulate. Such schemes include the £34 million made available to farmers via the Slurry Infrastructure Grant, £17.5 million via the Farming Innovation Programme, and £10 million allocated to farmers via the Water Management Grant.
CIEH urge the government to show both their commitment to improving public health, and to the sustainability agenda by giving local authorities the necessary funding and resources needed to improve local air quality.
Louise Hosking, Executive Director of Environmental Health at CIEH, said:
“Air pollution poses a tremendous risk to public health, causing up to 40,000 early deaths as well as costing the economy billions each year.
While the Air Quality Scheme is a great initiative in that it provides grants to local authorities with additional funds for innovative projects aimed at improving local air quality, unfortunately it does not go far enough.
Our members work at the front line in tackling local air pollution in their areas, and they often tell us how much more they could do if only they had adequate the adequate resources and capacity to do so.
While grant funding is no substitute for adequate levels of local authority funding, we at CIEH call on the government to show greater ambition and commitment to improving air quality by providing more funding for local authorities to tackle this issue.”