Choking on the London Bias: Levelling up promises have gone up in smoke

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While the capital boasts a new £2k scrappage scheme AND a world-class public transport system - the rest of the country is left choking on the London bias

We can all give a sigh of relief and take a big breath of slightly less-polluted air - thanks to the announcement that all Londoners will now get extra cash to buy new cars compliant with ULEZ.

Won't that be a groundbreaking step for everyone impacted by controversial plans to cut back car use and clear the air?

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Except, seemingly unbeknown to those with power in politics, the capital isn't the only city which fines folk for driving highly-polluting cars.

Well, knock me down with a feather, it turns out that even those northern bumpkins in places like Yorkshire and Lancashire don't want to die from air pollution either.

No move to lessen car use ever goes ahead without controversy but suddenly, after a less than glorious by-election result and lots of campaigning, everyone in London is being given a financial hand to ease the blow.

ULEZ is being expanded to cover almost all of Greater London from August 29, meaning drivers of older, more polluting vehicles will face a £12.50 daily charge.

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The mayor and Transport for London had been lobbied by campaigners, councils and London Assembly Members to widen the £110 million scheme further, due to concerns it has left many Londoners unable to access the support.

It worked.

So what about the people of Birmingham, Portsmouth, Manchester, Sheffield... I could go on but these fine cities seem to carry little weight in the corridors of Westminster.

We all know there is more money to invest in schemes in London.

That is painfully true for all kinds of things, even if the Tories seem to have gleefully thrown aside the greatest PR scam in recent political history, Levelling Up.

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What is most ironic though, is not only do the mayors of these big cities get far less money to spend on schemes such as ULEZ and a scrappage payment, there is hardly anything for public transport.

In fact, just this week, we have seen huge cutbacks in government spending on buses in many of our regions.

South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard described it like this: “The government’s promises to level-up by giving us a ‘London style transport system’ are in tatters. In the most recent round of funding, we got just 15% of the money going to other areas. I simply won’t accept that the people of South Yorkshire get just a fraction of the funding received by other communities here in the north, they are our friends and neighbours who I work for and represent.

"Make no mistake, the bus network in our region is broken."

Want to know what he means? Well, before lockdown, just £4 per person was spent in Sheffield compared with £77 in London - and that's buses alone. For awkwardly obvious reasons, there is no comparison on local train services or undergrounds.

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In what feels like the politics of poverty, there have been a few regional successes in recent decades but even Manchester looks like a very poor relation when compared to London.

Surely the true objective of all schemes aimed at cutting pollution or congestion should be to get people out of their cars?

The only way to do that is to improve our buses and extend our trams, make them affordable and reliable.

The one city in the country which does boast a system which enables its residents to not bother owning a car is - you guessed it - London.

Somebody, somewhere is taking the mickey.

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While London boasts a £2k scrappage scheme and a world-class public transport system - the rest of the country suffersWhile London boasts a £2k scrappage scheme and a world-class public transport system - the rest of the country suffers
While London boasts a £2k scrappage scheme and a world-class public transport system - the rest of the country suffers | NationalWorld

Several members of our news team still remember taking advantage of the last scrappage scheme. After the 2008 financial crash, a subsidy of £2,000 was offered to everyone in the country and 400,000 vehicles were taken off the road.

There's no danger of them doing the same now because they live in the wrong place. They're just as likely to suffer asthma or die from pollution-fuelled illness though, but who cares about that?

I'm glad Londoners are getting help but let's widen it out so it isn't quite as obvious that votes in London cost the most to buy. The inequalities running rampant across the country are enough to make you choke.

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