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Town hall’s response to Islington’s deadly pollution ‘weak and disappointing’

11:01 22 January 2014

Caroline Russell

Caroline Russell

Dieter Perry

The town hall response to Islington’s deadly levels of pollution was branded “weak and disappointing” forcing a re-think.

The borough’s chronic smog problem is said to be the cause of 250 deaths every year and is double the European Union limit outside some schools.

An Islington Council scrutiny committee spent a year producing a report suggesting ways to tackle the lethal issue and presented it to the ruling executive last weak.

But critics say while the council made the right noises about pollution, their reaction had no definable targets and have ‘called-in’ the decision, which will now be discussed again tomorrow night (Thursday).

Independent Cllr Greg Foxsmith, who chaired the original report, said: “I have no doubt that the Council would like to take action on air quality in the borough, and I welcome the encouraging words from council leader Richard Watts and enviro-chief Cllr Ismail.

“The response to the scrutiny report is disappointing, as it contains few if any quantifiable targets or time-tabled action. I am hopeful that councillors on Thursday will vote to send the response back for more work. If they do, I have no doubt the Council will set achievable targets to tackle air pollution, and I will be one of many who will support them.”

Cllr Tracy Ismail, environment spokesman for Islington’s oppostion Lib Dem group, said: “The council’s response on air quality is feeble. We have an air pollution crisis in Islington, but Labour councillors are not doing anything or just blame the Mayor.

“Islington Liberal Democrats want to build a greener, cleaner environment in our borough. That’s why we set up the special investigation into air quality last year and why we have now urged the council to come up with a better plan to tackle air quality in line with the original report’s recommendations.

“It’s time for Labour councillors to think again. There is so much more they could be doing on air quality. They can’t just keep washing their hands on the issue. How many more Islington residents have to suffer or die from air pollution before it is taken seriously?”

Caroline Russell, from the Islington Green Party, supported the call in and said the council should include targets to reduce engine idling and promote cycling.

She added: “It’s a shame. It’s good they are acting on air pollution, but it could have been so much better. It needs to be more robust. More than warm words, we need tough but achievable targets.”

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, claimed the real problem was beyond his control.

He said: “We agree that air quality in Islington is a serious issue and we are already doing a lot about this. We will be announcing a new strategy in the next couple of months.

“But we have to make sure what we do makes a difference and we have clear evidence the main problem is diesel engines which are beyond our control - either buses controlled by Transport for London (TfL) or lorries on TfL roads.

“This issue of cracking down on cars idling will mean whacking fines on hard-working parents waiting outside schools, and it won’t make any difference unless they have diesel cars.”

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