A strategy for local authority action

Air pollution sits over London, with several tall buildings silouhetted

It would appear that the Government is finally getting serious on air pollution. Or at least serious on Council’s, who are not doing their bit to tackle air pollution in their areas.

This last week, the Government warned both Derby and Southampton Councils that time was running out for them to start tackling air pollution in their area, after warning them in 2015 that they would need to put a plan in place by September of this year. It’s a rare threat from government, but perhaps a welcome one.

With more bad news emerging of the impacts of air pollution, this time on its effect on babies in the womb, local councils need robust strategies in place, and in place soon. This is a matter that we have touched on over the last few weeks, because local councils need a comprehensive, and robust strategy in place without the need for government to threaten them into it.

Practically, this means developing a strategy around 3 areas:

  • Do the basics well. Councils have been monitoring emissions levels for years, and have a comprehensive evidence base of how bad their air pollution issues are. This needs to be supplemented with and evidence base demonstrating the impact of initiatives and work programmes on reducing air pollution at a local level. Solutions are out there that allow this evidence base to be built, including EMSOL’s solution.
  • Be bold in actions. Sometimes, the actions needed are unpopular. Take just this last week, where as part of European Mobility Week, Brussels and Paris took the tough decisions to close their city centres to cars. Work in collaboration with others, but if an unpopular decision needs to be taken in order to tackle the air pollution issue in your area, take it.
  • Set aside space for innovative solutions. Whilst tried, trusted, and proven solutions need to be at the core of the strategy, there needs to be the capability and direction to try something new. At the minimum, this needs to be a direction to the market on what areas and outcomes the Council wants to co-create innovative solutions. But effective innovation needs time, space, and resources to deliver.

Not much of this is anything new, or anything particularly revolutionary. Local Councils across the Country have, as part of their Strategic Plans, commitment to improve the environment of their area, and improving the health of their citizens. And they have done so for many years.

The fact that they are being warned by government that they need to deliver against this should not be a cause for complaint. It should be a jolt into action. Let’s hope that jolt sparks many more local authorities into life.