Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
At the Public Accounts Committee Hearing on
Wednesday 23 January 2002 on Policy Development: Improving Air
Quality, I agreed to provide the Committee with a note covering
a number of points in more detail.
Question 105: Cost to local Authorities of acquiring
expertise to carry out reviews and assessments of air quality?
The Committees wanted to know how much it cost
local authorities to acquire the necessary expertise to carry
out their reviews and assessments of air quality. As the Committee
highlighted, air quality modelling and monitoring is a highly
complex task. It is also an area in which many local authorities
had relatively little expertise prior to the introduction of the
local air quality management regime.
Part IV of the Environment Act, which imposed
the new requirements on local authorities, came into force in
December 1997. Prior to this, the then Department of the Environment
had undertaken a pilot study in 1996-97 with a number of local
authorities in different regions of the UK (the so-called "first
phase" authorities). The aims of this pilot phase were to
test the new system and to establish exactly how much of a burden
the new duties were likely to place on local authorities in staff
time and other costs.
The findings of this study were published in
a report ("First Phase Air Quality Review and Assessment:
A Summary", DETR, March 2000, ISBN 0-7058-1777-6). In the
light of the experience of the "first phase" authorities,
a "new burdens transfer" was arranged so that the Local
Government Finance Settlement in 1997 included new resources for
local authorities to cover the likely costs of their new duties.
The total provision was (and continues to be) a little over £2
million per year for authorities in England, with broadly similar
arrangements and levels of funding applying in Wales and Scotland.
As the Committee will be aware, however, resources for local authorities
are not ring-fenced and final decisions on the precise level of
expenditure are a matter for each local authority.
In addition to the resources made available
through the Local Government Finance Settlement, this Department
has made available supplementary credit approvals to local authorities
in England to cover the capital costs associated with the purchase
of, often expensive, monitoring equipment and modelling software.
Approximately £2.5 million per year has been made available
every year since 1997, with bids from individual authorities being
appraised on an annual basis.
Question 107: What powers are to be given to Local
Authorities to penalise motorists who fail roadside tests?
The Committee were interested in the new powers
that are due to be given to those local authorities which have
designated air quality management areas to allow them to undertake
roadside vehicle emissions testing and to penalise motorists if
their vehicles fail the test. I can confirm that the draft Regulations
to bring these powers into effect were issued for consultation
by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions
(DTLR) in October 2001. The DTLR are currently considering the
responses to the consultation paper, and intend to lay the Regulations
within the new few months. They will also be making available
additional funding to local authorities to enable them to adopt
the new powers.
Details of the proposed penalty structure were
set out in the consultation document. The basic level of penalty
proposed was £60, rising to £90 if the penalty was not
paid within 28 days. It was proposed that the penalty would be
reduced to £30 if the motorist could demonstrate:
That he/she had passed an MoT test
within the previous 6 months; or
That he/she had taken all reasonable
steps to maintain the emissions standard of the vehicle; or
That he/she had rectified the fault
within 14 days of the offence.
It was proposed that the penalty should be waived
altogether if the motorist could demonstrate both that the vehicle
had been properly serviced prior to the offence and that the fault
had been rectified within 14 days of the offence. In the light
of comments received during the consultation period, the Government
is also considering the possibility of reducing the fine to £30
if the motorist can demonstrate that the vehicle has been legally
scrapped within 28 days of the offence.
Question 149: Disaggregating on a regional basis
the number of deaths brought forward in the UK as a result of
short-term exposure to air pollution
The Committee wanted to know whether it was
possible to disaggregate on a regional basis the total number
of deaths brought forward in the UK as a result of short-term
exposure to air pollution (as set out in figure 10 of the NAO
report). In brief, as the attached Annex from our contractors
shows, we estimate that the number of deaths broadly follows the
distribution of population but is also influenced by the variations
in pollutant concentration. This means, for example, that on a
per-population basis, a slightly higher percentage of deaths are
brought forward by air pollution in London and the rest of England
than in Wales and Scotland.