According to figures issued to city councillors this week air quality experts have predicted that the proposed clean air zone may not bring pollution levels down to the legally safe maximum by 2020.

Charges of up to £10 pounds for an older car, or £100 for a diesel truck will deter enough motorists from the city centre to make a decent improvement to air quality compared to current lethal levels.

But even then it will be touch and go whether the rate of pollution will dip below the 40 micrograms per cubic metre target in time.

According to the projections pollution levels on Suffolk Street Queensway, Lawley Middleway, the Coporation Street to Aston Expressway link and Moat Lane in Digbeth are likely to remain too high.

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And levels of dangerous nitrogen dioxide along the M6 corridor, which is of course outside the proposed road charging zone will, will also remain above the safe level.

This is all despite the city council’s Labour bosses opting for the highest level of pollution charge allowed - hitting diesel cars made before 2015 and pre-2005 petrol cars, as well as high polluting trucks, lorries, vans and buses.

Having lost three court cases brought by the environmental campaign group ClientEarth already, few doubt the Government and council will be hit with substantial fines if residents are not breathing clean air by the 2020 deadline.

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The cabinet member for transport and environment Waseem Zaffar told councillors it is right that they are pursuing this clean air policy, currently out for consultation over the summer.

And he pointed out: "If we do go ahead the poorest communities in our city will be most affected. They will benefit most from better health - we will be reversing health inequalities. But we also accept they will be most affected in terms of the financial impact of the introduction of a clean air zone."

What he means is the less well off live in the inner cities where the air will improve, but they are also more likely to drive the older polluting cars which will face the higher charges and be out of pocket as a result.

We have a proposed clean air zone policy which is all stick and very few carrots.

A lobbying effort is now well underway with the council, West MIdlands Mayor Andy Street, Chambers of Commerce and the taxi industry bodies lobbying Government for extra resources to set up and run the clean air zone. Remember the more successful it is the less likely it is to cover its costs.

Cllr Zaffar praised the Conservative mayor for his constructive and collaborative approach to this issue and said his influence will be crucial in persuading the Government to help.

And more funding, such as through a diesel scrappage scheme , to help people get rid of their polluting cars. The cab industry are also calling for help to buy the hugely expensive £55,000 electric taxis now coming onto the market.

With London and four other provincial cities also looking at clean air zones, Birmingham is in good company on the lobbying front.

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And the Government does have a role to play. It was Government policy from the early 2000s to 2015 to encorage motorists to buy the diesel cars which we now know are causing most of the damage.

It is also the Government which, from 2015, has been contesting court battles rather than getting on with sorting out air quality, leaving us in a position where drastic measures are now needed to hit the looming 2020 deadline.

The city council has further contributed to this by dragging its feet over the last six months, fearful of a local electoral backlash if the plans were put out too soon. Even now it will meet the Government’s September deadline for a firm plan and have enough time to put it in place.

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The fact remains that the city was supposed to have clean air by 2015, but there was little concerted action from either successive Governments or the cities themselves to get to grips with the problem.

Now we have a public health crisis and steps have to be taken at great speed and for that the Government should help the people of this city.