Glasgow’s SNP licensing chief has said it “may have been more suitable” to give taxi and private hire drivers more time to comply with Low Emission Zone (LEZ) rules.
Councillor Alex Wilson, who chairs the city’s licensing committee, said he understands drivers are facing a “number of challenges” regarding the LEZ.
The second phase of the zone, which applies to all vehicles, began on May 31 but enforcement won’t start until June 1 next year. It has been rolled out in a bid to tackle pollution in the city centre.
Taxi and private hire drivers have repeatedly called for more time and financial support to upgrade their vehicles. Union representatives have said the LEZ roll-out could force hundreds of drivers off the road.
Last month, the council’s city administration committee agreed a ‘time-limited exemption’ for taxi operators who do not have access to funded retrofit solutions. It means drivers without funding support will be exempt from enforcement of the emission standards required by the LEZ until June 1, 2024.
The committee noted that taxi operators and the council/Scottish Government agencies continued “to differ on the capacity to perform the necessary retrofit”.
After the meeting, Councillor Angus Millar, SNP, the city’s transport and climate convener, said the LEZ is a “vital public health measure”.
He said the council was taking a “considered approach” which balances “our resolute determination to tackle the public health issues associated with air quality as quickly as we can, with our desire to mitigate as far as possible the cost to operators to achieve compliance.”
However, concerns over the impact on the taxi trade were raised by both Labour and Conservative councillors. The Conservative group wanted to delay enforcement by another year while Labour said more funding should be made available by the Scottish Government.
Now, the SNP’s licensing convener has said: “In terms of the LEZ and when it comes in, we do understand there are a number of challenges that are faced by our drivers out there.
“I’m pleased that for vehicles that cannot meet the standards, they are given an extra year, a longer period may have been more suitable but that’s down to the CAC committee (City Administration).”
Cllr Wilson was speaking as the licensing committee agreed to amend its policy on the licensing of taxi and private hire car vehicles in relation to the LEZ.
It updated the policy to reflect the roll-out had been delayed due to covid and the city administration committee’s decision on time-limited exemptions. The required emissions standards are: Euro IV for petrol vehicles and Euro VI for diesel vehicles.
A council spokesperson said: “Although we’ve made good progress in recent years to improve Glasgow’s air quality, some of our city centre streets continue to have stubbornly high levels of harmful air pollution, which is why restricting access to the most polluting vehicles from next year is vital to protect public health.
“Granting a time-limited exemption of one year for taxi operators who are not eligible for Scottish Government vehicle retrofit funding to meet the emission requirements, represents a balanced and practical way to support the trade ahead of next year’s general enforcement of Glasgow’s LEZ.
“LEZ legislation restricts time-limited exemptions to a maximum of one year.
“This considered approach balances our resolute determination to tackle the pressing public health issues associated with air quality as quickly as we can, with our desire to mitigate as far as possible the cost to operators to achieve compliance.”