HomelessOne – a leading charity fighting homelessness in the city – has found volunteers both unable to continue commuting and hit by charges on their vehicles since the introduction of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Birmingham on 1st June 2021.
HomelessOne serves over 62,000 hot meals and drinks every year in the city centre and ran a successful vaccination programme for service users through the pandemic.
Beth-Gilde Young, a long-standing volunteer at the charity Homeless One said: “A couple of our volunteers were unable to use their own cars to drive in as it cost too much money.
“Some volunteers also come by train into Birmingham city centre but they are not often reliable.
“Amazingly one of our main volunteers received an anonymous donation to pay the charges and can now volunteer on a weekly basis but this was a one off and we still need help.”
Another volunteer at HomelessOne, explained they had previously raised the issue to Birmingham City Council in meetings prior to the introduction of the ‘Brum Breathes’ scheme.
He explained the exemption permits made available by the Council do not include many charity volunteers as they are not ’employees’ of the company.
The council advised the charity’s volunteers they would recieve responses in regards to their concerns over CAZ after the meeting but the charity claimss they have not heard back since.
Charges in Birmingham for Clean Air Zones stand at £8 per day for “cars, taxis and LGV’s”.
Exemption passes are available to commuters within Birmingham CAZ but the criteria means some groups of people who depend on commuting are unable to do so, despite raising these difficulties with the Council.
Records by Birmingham City Council show that in August 2021, 94,807 fixed penalty notices (PCN’s) were issued to drivers in that month alone, following 112,772 in July. The fines handed out in July were set to make the council £8.9 million in a single month, if all PCN’s were paid.
The council has also been under fire since revealing they issued 834 PCN’s to themselves since June 14th 2021 for unpaid Clean Air Zone charges by the council’s own vehicles
According to the Brum Breathes website, the money raised through the charges is reinvested in “transport related projects and policies.”
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said:
“Birmingham’s Government mandated Clean Air Zone launched on 1 June 2021 and it is important to remember that the daily fee only applies to vehicles that do not meet the emission standards for the zone.
“The majority of vehicles that travel through the zone each day are not subject to the fee.
“We’re continuing to encourage everyone to use the online vehicle checker to check if the daily fee does apply to their vehicle.
“Support is available for people who live and work in the city centre and our teams continue to process applications for temporary exemptions and financial support.”
More information about the support available, can be found at www.brumbreathes.co.uk.
This is not the first time charities have called to action on congestion charges.
Charities within London asked for change in regards to the ULEZ charges when they were reintroduced on 18th May 2020, after being relaxed during the first few months of the pandemic.
Clean Air Zones have also been approved in Portsmouth this week, beginning at the end of November 2021, making it the third City to follow the introduction of CAZ charges.