A new congestion charge set to be introduced in Birmingham city centre within two years is a wake-up call to businesses in the area to look at cleaner forms of transport and new means of acquiring vehicles.
So says Tamworth-based, car benefits and fleet management specialist, Fleet Evolution, which is urging local businesses to consider acquiring cleaner vehicles for their employees to beat the planned congestion charge.
Birmingham City Council said this week that by 2020 it was looking to impose a levy of between £6-£10 on cars travelling into its planned Clean Air Zone (CAZ), which covers every road within the city centre and includes the popular Bullring Shopping Centre and Arena Birmingham music venue.
Vehicles entering the CAZ will be charged if they fall below set emissions standards: Euro 4 for petrol vehicles, which are those registered before about 2006, and Euro 6 for diesels, typically those registered before about 2015.
Based on 2016 data, the local authority has estimated that about half of all cars would fall within the charging scheme based on these emission standards, and would include about 55% of all vehicles, when HGVs, vans, coaches and minibuses were taken into account.
The proposed charge, which is the subject of a forthcoming public consultation, could be up to £100 per day for HGVs and similar weight vehicles.
The introduction of the CAZ charge is in response to a looming deadline for Birmingham and other UK cities to introduce measures to tackle poor air quality.
Plans for clean air zones to be introduced in five cities: Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton, were first put forward by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in 2015.
These followed a series of legal defeats for the Government over the adequacy of its wider air quality strategy. The European Commission also issued a “final warning” to the Government in January over repeated breaches of air quality limits in 16 areas, with Birmingham among the worst offenders.
Andrew Leech, managing director of Fleet Evolution, which was awarded ‘Go Ultra Low Company’ status last November, said that businesses should act now to provide their employees with access to low polluting vehicles through employee benefit schemes such as salary sacrifice.
“As the UK struggles to meet European clean air deadlines, we will see increasing numbers of major cities introducing chargeable zones within their centres where only the least-polluting cars and vans will be able to enter free of charge.
“However, city centre employers could establish a major differentiator for themselves by providing staff with access to low-cost, low polluting new cars which will meet the toughest emissions regulations,” he said.
Over the last 12 months, Fleet Evolution has seen the average CO2 emissions of new cars supplied under its schemes fall to an all-time low of just 78g/km.
This is great news for employees who have elected to have new cars under the schemes and pay Benefit-in-Kind taxation based on the CO2 emissions of their cars, as it means their tax bills are kept as low as possible.
“On top of that, our schemes result in a tangible and clearly demonstrable increase in staff retention and an improvement in recruitment for employers who introduce them,” added Andrew Leech.
“Car salary sacrifice schemes genuinely promote the uptake of less polluting, more environmentally friendly cars which help companies reach their targets for carbon reduction and corporate responsibility. And in the case of the new clear air zones, they will help employees travel charge-free into city centres with even the most stringent environmental controls,” he added.
The key features of the Fleet Evolution salary sacrifice scheme include all servicing, maintenance and repair, road fund licence, fully comprehensive insurance, corporate discounts, no credit checks, upfront payments or deposit – all of which combine to provide employees with an attractive, clean air, cost and time effective way to access a new car.