Unitaries are much less likely than Metropolitan councils and London boroughs to consider taking action on air quality as ‘extremely or very important’, the latest quarterly NLGN leadership index survey has found.
All respondents from Metropolitan councils and London boroughs said taking action on air quality is ‘extremely or very important’, compared to only 59% of those from unitaries.
More than half (51.2%) of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that they have enough powers and resources to improve air quality in their area.
Respondents from independent-led councils are the most optimistic about having adequate resources and powers to improve air quality while almost three quarters of respondents from Labour-led councils disagreed.
Four out of 10 respondents from the North East said they have enough powers and resources to improve local air quality, compared to 8% and 11% respectively in the South East and Yorkshire and the Humber.
The most significant barriers to improving air quality were identified as a lack of resources (25%), competing priorities (24%); and limited decision-making powers (20%). Other key barriers mentioned included the ‘lack of Government direction as to who is leading and has responsibility’.
Concerns were also raised about poor coordination across tiers and agencies. One view was that the ‘system is set up to fail’, with ‘significant issues’ in two-tier areas as air quality is monitored by districts while counties have powers over transport issues.
Senior policy researcher at NLGN Pawda Tjoa said: ‘ Government has signalled its awareness of this issue through the air quality targets it has placed locally. Now it urgently needs to trust and support councils to do their bit to tackle local pollution and actually meet these targets.
‘Not only should it commit resources, but it should give local places the freedom to try new, innovative ways to reduce congestion and clean up the air their residents breathe.’