The mayor’s air quality progress, as told to the world and an NHS doctor – 2019

The above is a link to the entire Full Council meeting.

The following link is for the 10 minutes that Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees aggressively responds to an NHS doctor about her request for him to help save lives.

A petition was brought to Full Council by a doctors Ellen Wood and Victoria Stanford. Dr Wood read out the petition that had been signed by 70 people: “Bristol Council is right to be concerned about the affordability of a clean air zone for its citizens, however, the mayor’s primary concern must be the devastating cost of air pollution to human health. We would like to know how the inaction of cleaning up our air is justified, and what equality focussed measures the mayor is considering alongside the clean air zone to mitigate its costs for those who can least afford them, are contributing least to the problem, and who are suffering the most?”


“So um, it’s obviously a very timely issue, so just indulge me, I’ve got four points to respond to your paper. First of all, there’s been some misinformation around.”

— No, there hasn’t been any misinformation around. The media [[BBC, Bristol24/7]] and the government accurately informed the public that the mayor and his team had missed the legal deadline, and from the mayor’s plans, we know that the actual CAZ won’t be in place for at least a year after the deadline. By September 2019, Bristol City Council had missed a third deadline.

By May 2019 though, the outline business case was so incomplete that it was just a Gantt chart. That was the reason given for it not being released via an FOI.


I don’t know where this idea is coming from that nothing is being done. We’ve got a whole docket and this is one of the points we made to the minister, and I think we need to be careful in listening to national government’s relationship when they say things about local government.

First point

We have at the moment, as Dave referenced earlier on, actually, (a) a bus still coming through that equality partnership, we’ve got the largest order of biogas busses coming through, that bus still will put us on track to having all of the buses in Bristol, 100% of the buses on biogas;

(b) we are investing through our development plan in the cycling and walking infrastructure;

(c) In the city plan, there is a particular track around the environment will have purchase across learning, education and skills, homes and communities, transport.
The fact that we have a specific board coming up around the environment that set out goals for Bristol for every year up to 2050 is some achievement, as has been recognised in other… around the rest of the country and so forth.

(d) And I’d also say that on Thursday when I go to our workshop on the industrial strategy, the local industrial strategy, as I shared with councillors earlier on, the point I’m going to be making is that that industrial strategy must hold economic inclusion, tackling poverty and inequality, but also sustainability; and when we build it into the plan that should go somewhere to anchoring in;

Second point

The second thing I’ll just raise is about the clean air plan. Now, there has been a delay in our initial submission to DEFRA but we’ve talked to the minister and JAQU about this ; we don’t have a government that’s actually wedded to deadlines in any meaningful way right now, and our point has been that this deadline has no bearing on the city’s ability to reach a compliance; so actually what we had was a red flag around the impact on the poorest people in Bristol , on the plans that are being brought forward, it’s incumbent upon us to have a look at the impact that would have had ;

Children are currently living  in areas with illegal air pollution. The compliance by 2030 is a legal requirement but the children suffering now are the mayor’s responsibility. He is absolutely wrong to ignore the effect this is having. The ultimate effect is around 300 deaths a year; 300 deaths in 2019, and 300 more in 2020. There will be no clean air zones until 2021.

Secondly, I’ll say in terms of what we are doing around trying to take mitigating actions around the poorest people ; we are part of UK 100; we’ve asked the government and I’ve sat around the table with Michael Gove along with Andy Burnham, Sadiq Khan, Andy Street from the Midlands, and we said to Michael Gove, we want to –this is before all this was in the papers, this is a year or so — we want to deliver air quality , but you can’t keep rolling down responsibility onto the cities without resourcing it.

This is true; it’s also interesting to note that both Bath and Birmingham City Council and, both members of the UK100, which also sat around the table and talked to Gove, put in place their CAZs last year. From Birmingham’s statement: “The Council submitted its CAZ Preferred Option Business Case to Government on 14th September 2018.”

UK100 write: “As well as taking action locally, UK100’s network is united in calling on the UK government to do more. This is a national problem that needs a national action.”

We need another billion and a half pounds in the clean air fund , and we need your national support for diesel scrappage scheme; that way we can support private citizens to move from diesel to electric vehicles , also we can work with our taxi fleet.

Third point

The final two things. I’ve got to take issue with the way this has been framed as well.

Air quality is a primary concern along with a number of other primary concerns. I’ve been at pains to say we don’t have a hierarchy of what we’re doing here. It’s air quality or it’s poverty or it’s poverty or it’s air quality. We’re trying to do them all at the same time.

As a health professional you’ll know from the Marmot review, and from the “If I could only do one thing” report about public health that socioeconomic factors are by far and away the biggest determinant of population health , and actually I had Duncan Selbie [] here, just a week ago Monday, and he wrote to me yesterday and what he said was ‘in terms of delivering on population health’ and you’ll know who Duncan Selbie is right, the … yeah, what he said was ‘for children having the best start in life and being ready to start school are important and for young people entering adulthood with the resilience to thrive ; for adults it’s having a secure job , home, and at all stages the importance of friendship and belonging in life’. Essentially, economic growth creating new jobs that local people can get with health and well-being are two sides of the same coin. We are not trading off economic growth against the environment; what we’re saying is sometimes they clash but we have to deliver on all of those.. .the same priority.

On the same day that Duncan Selbie met the mayor (11 March) he released a report with a focus on what “local authorities can do to improve air quality, such as clean by design approach to planning, promoting investment in clean public transport and providing the infrastructure to promote active travel.” One of the recommendations was: “Redesigning cities so people aren’t so close to highly polluting roads”.

In March 2019, the local plan consultation and secret Arup report on Western Harbour we’re promoting building a dual carriageway through Hotwells and bringing more traffic and cars and noise and pollution closer to homes.

Another recommendation in the review released on the day Mayor Rees met Selbie: “discouraging highly polluting vehicles from entering populated areas – for example, with low emission or clean air zones”

and what i would also say is there is a really political danger for the environment in further marginalising people from the economy. The kind of politics you make possible when people lose hope that they will ever get out of the spiral of poverty is an anti-environmental politics.

Fourth point

And final point, Lord Mayor, the NHS generates 5% of all road journeys in this country, ok? so this is on NHS’s own numbers.

They contribute 735 deaths from air pollution , they cost us 8884 life years, contribute to 85 deaths and 772 major injuries and create £650 million of demand on NHS services.

So, I would say as an NHS professional what would also be good is don’t wait for the council , the NHS is a massive institution, it’s a sovereign body.

Look at your own transport plans. I’d be interested to know what’s been going on inside the NHS, what you’re doing around transport plans to take the burden you bring on to our roads, and I would also be interested to know what you’re doing to ensure that you’re the NHS is transferring all its diesel vehicles over into electric or biogas [37:34]


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