Richmond Lib Dems slam Government withdrawal of £1Million Air Quality grant

15 May 2024

Liberal Democrat Councillors leading the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, have expressed grave concern that a crucial £1million grant awarded from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been suddenly withdrawn. Having been accepted as a Council bid two months ago the Conservative Government has given no timescale as to when funding will become available again. 

It simply states in a letter dated 10 April 2024: "We’re writing to inform you that the Air Quality Minister has decided to exercise his discretion not to fund the Local Air Quality Grant scheme for the financial year 2023- 2024”. 

The cancellation of the grant is seen as yet another classic case of Government reneging. 

Councillors were therefore delighted that Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham MP Munira Wilson, raised the issue with Defra Ministers in a House of Commons debate on Thursday 9 May 2024. She called out the decision to cut local air quality grants, pointing out how it breaks the Government’s commitment to "expand resources available to Councils to improve air quality.” 

A forthcoming report from the LBRuT Transport and Air Quality Committee, highlights that although air quality monitoring shows encouraging reductions in many tested parts of the Borough, there remains stubborn areas where air quality is above acceptable levels. Crucially, these include Richmond and Twickenham Town Centres and a corridor around the A316, affecting both Richmond and Twickenham Primary Schools. 

Chair of the Air Quality and Transport Committee, Alex Ehmann, said: "We are delighted Munira Wilson MP conveyed to the House of Commons how the cancellation of this grant has impacted planned initiatives to improve air quality in important hot spots - particularly given the good progress the Lib Dem Council has made in tackling air quality in most other areas of the Borough. This Government u-turn has pulled the rug from under a project which would have seen real support offered to those with conditions most exposed to adverse air quality.  This Tory Government seems more committed to hot air than actually improving air quality.”

Lead Member for Public Health, Piers Allen added: "We know there is a strong link between poor air quality and health issues, particularly with respiratory problems in young people, so it is highly disappointing to hear of the Minister's cavalier response to our MP. The formerly agreed grant would have formed an important part of Richmond Council’s upcoming Air Quality Action Plan for 2024/25. Sadly, this is a clear illustration yet again of the Government's overall lack of commitment to fund Public Health and Prevention in local government and their cancellation of Public Health England in 2021 and the underfunding of the successor national agencies.”

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