Manchester CAZ consultation includes hardship fund proposal

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The ability of transport businesses to comply with the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the wake of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is being examined in a formal consultation into CAZ proposals that now include plans for a hardship fund. 

While Greater Manchester remains committed to introducing the CAZ in spring 2022, concerns about impacted businesses’ means to recover from losses incurred during the pandemic while also being able to invest in their fleets to meet CAZ requirements have been raised. Consultation responses will be used to “inform decisions on the nature and requirements for additional support for those [that are] most vulnerable to the CAZ charge.”

It is thus proposed that a hardship fund of at least £10m is established. If introduced, it will support “individuals, companies and organisations that are assessed to be most economically vulnerable to the CAZ charge,” the consultation document states.

Scope of fund to be decided, Manchester CAZ consultation says

The scope and scale of any hardship support is currently being examined. “It is possible that the groups affected… may require different levels of financial assistance than had been assessed at the time of the submission of the Outline Business Case to the government,” it continues. The smallest organisations are likely to be those that will be “most economically affected” by the CAZ, it adds. 

Questions in the consultation relating to the establishment of a hardship fund concern the pandemic’s effect on debt levels, cash reserves, turnover and profitability. Responses will help the preparation of a technical briefing note to be submitted to the government. That will assist in determining the amount of hardship funding to be made available. 

Separate from the proposed hardship fund, Greater Manchester is now asking the government for £98m for its Clean Commercial Vehicle Fund (CCVF) – which captures coaches – and £30m for the Clean Bus Fund. That money will go towards the replacement or Euro VI retrofit of non-compliant vehicles. £14.7m and £15.4m respectively has been funded for those schemes thus far, but more is expected. Preferential rate finance will also be available to support vehicle replacement or upgrade.

CAZ to cover all roads except those managed by Highways England

Where grant money is provided, up to £16,000 will be paid per vehicle, hardship funding excepted. For buses, it will be available to those vehicles that are less than 13 years old and that have operated for a minimum of six months on registered bus services in Greater Manchester.  

£4.4m through CCVF has already been awarded to coaches, and buses that are not used on registered bus services. Those that are registered to a business address in Greater Manchester will also be eligible for an already-announced temporary exemption to the CAZ until 31 December 2022. 

The CAZ will capture all roads within Greater Manchester, except for those that are managed by Highways England. The latter include motorways and trunk roads. It remains the case that the CAZ is expected to be in operation “until at least the second half of 2026.” 

The consultation closes on 3 December.