Call to Use Camera Funds for Measures that 'Benefit Everyone'

Deputation suggests more school streets and EV charge points

Lauren Clark (l) and Donald Grant (r) at the Hammersmith and Fulham Cabinet meeting

February 13, 2024

Hammersmith & Fulham Council has been urged to redirect any funding for cameras enforcing its clean air programme to alternative measures, such as more school streets and electric charging points.

Donald Grant, Chair of the Camera Traffic Consulting Group, and Lauren Clark, who runs Randall’s Butchers on Wandsworth Road alongside her partner, made the request at Monday night’s (12 February) Hammersmith and Fulham Cabinet meeting, in which items including proposed council tax levels and the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget were voted upon.

Cllr Rowan Ree, Cabinet Member for Finance and Reform, said the Clean Air Neighbourhoods (CANs) investment the pair were referring to, listed in the local authority’s Four Year Capital Programme, does not include additional spend on cameras, but instead brought together funding for actions like improved drainage and new cycle paths.

The council’s CAN programme in South Fulham is intended to cut air pollution via measures such as sustainable drainage schemes and better walking and cycling infrastructure, plus initiatives like school streets. Cameras are also deployed to discourage rat-running by out-of-borough drivers, who are fined if caught going through the zones.

Exemptions are provided for groups such as Black Cab drivers, carers and residents, with the council claiming the first permanent CAN, to the east of Wandsworth Bridge, has led to 8,000 fewer cars seen entering the restricted area each day. A second scheme, to the west of the bridge, is currently being trialled. A decision on whether to make it permanent is due later this year.

Some have however questioned the council’s findings, calling them ‘selective’ and not representative of the impact on local businesses and residents. A recent social media clip also raised concerns about women’s safety, after Uber drivers refused to drop passengers home if it meant them having to drive into the CAN zones.

At last Monday night’s Cabinet meeting, Mr Grant said the council has yet to publish data on the current trial, leaving residents in the dark on its impact. He added the local authority’s claim the permanent scheme has cut the number of vehicles by thousands does not detail whether those emissions have been moved elsewhere.

While acknowledging “we don’t know the breakdown of the funding proposed in this budget”, Mr Grant asked for any money designated for the CAN cameras to be spent on “solutions which benefit everyone, including those that are left behind”. He continued to give examples of one-way streets with speed controls, school streets, and more electric charging points.

“This won’t go away until the cameras go away,” he concluded.

Following the pair’s deputation, Cllr Ree introduced the council’s proposed Four Year Capital Programme and responded to the pair’s claims. He said, “The line item in the appendix I think this is referring to isn’t additional spending on cameras. This is bringing together the £2.8m of highway spending that we are looking at undertaking over the year, and that covers things like improved drainage, increasing the number of green spaces, planting new trees and providing additional cycle paths.”

Cabinet members waved through a series of budget proposals for the year ahead during the meeting, including a 4.99% council tax hike and a 7.7% rent increase for tenants. The council says it has been able to balance its budget at a time when most local authorities are struggling, while continuing to invest in front-line services.

It will now go before Full Council on 28 February for final approval.

Ben Lynch - Local Democracy Reporter