Bristol City Council refuses to reveal number of CAZ fines

BRISTOL City Council has refused to reveal how many drivers have received fines for failing to pay Clean Air Zone charges for driving into central Bristol.

The CAZ scheme was introduced six months ago to cut airborne pollution. Drivers of older diesel and petrol cars must pay £9 a day and older buses and lorries £100 a day to enter an area including Broadmead, Cabot Circus, the Centre and Temple Quay, with penalty charges of up to £120 incurred for not paying within a week.

The Voice first asked the council how many motorists had paid the basic charges, received penalties or been incorrectly charged in January, just over a month after the scheme began.

But the council has not released any figures, and refused to answer a recent freedom of information (FoI) request asking the number of penalty charge notices issued between December and March.

The council says it will not publish detailed figures until December, and says publishing them earlier could “result in confusion”.

Responding to the FoI request, a council officer said: “Accelerating publication would unnecessarily divert scarce council resources in dealing with premature scrutiny of the success or otherwise of the CAZ scheme, and would represent an inefficient use of public money.

“Council officers would have to take time away from their normal duties to locate and collate the information.

“To accurately assess the performance of the Clean Air Zone against the stated objective for introducing the zone requires accurate air quality data to be available. The full data set required to accurately assess this performance will not be available until the zone has been in place for a minimum of 12 months.

“Disclosure of partial or incomplete information would be likely to mislead and result in confusion, inaccuracy or misunderstanding.”

Sheffield and Newcastle city councils published figures for drivers who breached their schemes within the two months of starting, and Birmingham published a detailed report within nine months.

Pressed for an explanation during an appearance on BBC Radio Bristol, Mayor Marvin Rees (above) said revealing the numbers too early could lead to “erroneous conclusions” about the scheme.

He told presenter John Darvall: “The concern is that if we jump off too soon and we have too short a period with which to study what is actually happening with the Clean Air Zone, then we could come up with a picture that is a little bit misleading.

“It’s important that we get a sufficient quantity of data on the fines, on the transport journeys, and on the people who have taken the support packages, before we jump to any premature conclusions.

“What we worry about is incomplete data that leads us to any erroneous conclusions.”

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service