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Council asked to cut down its fleet of cars in the battle against toxic air

Reduction in diesel-using vehicles, but could staff make trips on e-bikes rather than in vans?

24 January, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Cllr Caroline Russell

ISLINGTON Council is trying to cut its number of vehicles running on diesel, but has been warned its entire fleet of cars is too big.

The London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) currently only covers a part of south Islington, but is due to start extending over the rest of the borough from October next year.

To lessen the blow of ULEZ costs incurred by non-compliant vehicles, the council has spent £6.25million since 2017 on upgrades to reduce the number of diesel-powered motors in its fleet.

A further £3million is to be spent this year.

But Green councillor Caroline Russell, one of only two councillors in the Town Hall chamber not part of the ruling Labour group, has warned the council should also be looking at ways of reducing its overall fleet of 481 vehicles.

The percentage of ULEZ-compliant council vehicles has gone up from 32 per cent in 2017/18 to 75 per cent in 2018/19, with a target of 90 per cent by the end of this year

Diesel vehicles still make up around 67 per cent of the council’s fleet, with a target of getting this down to 45 per cent by the end of this year.

But while applauding the progress, Cllr Russell voiced concern over particle pollution caused by all types of vehicles, and asked corporate fleet and transport manager Mark Smith in a scrutiny meeting whether there were any plans to reduce the number of vehicles.

“It’s really good to see the council really getting a grip on this and moving it forward,” she said.

“But I just wondered whether you thought at all about fleet reduction and teams working differently and needing fewer vehicles.

“Is there any thinking going on in terms of, for instance, housing, working differently, whether some people can use e-assist cargo bikes, whether everyone has to have a van, whether there are different ways of working?”

Responding, Mr Smith told the scrutiny committee the council had reduced the physical size of fleet vehicles on the road, such as 26-ton refuse collection vehicles being replaced with 7.5-ton caged tippers for street bin collections.

“So it’s less tyres on the road, much smaller vehicles, less energy use to move the vehicles,” he said.

“At the the moment we can’t yet avoid tyres. No one to the best of my knowledge has come up with a low-emission tyre yet. But tyre maintenance is key.”

He added: “We are also in discussions at the minute looking potentially at the assisted bikes to replace some of the supervisor role vehicles.”

Mr Smith also said the council was focusing on smaller batteries in their electric vehicles, reducing weight and road abrasion while improving functionality.

A council spokesperson added: “Within the total [of vehicle numbers], we have also slightly in­creased the numbers of some frontline vehicles, such as roadsweepers, to ensure that we can always provide these services as some of the older vehicles start requiring greater maintenance.

“While these increases have been made with individual Euro 6 diesel and petrol vehicles as the best viable options at the time of purchase, this strategy will allow us to delay the replacement of several groups of assets until viable zero emissions replacements are available, and so avoid prolonging the use of conventional fuel.”

Cllr Russell said: “For every council department during this climate emergency we need to be thinking about how we can do things differently.”

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