Nearly 50,000 Clean Air Zone (CAZ) fines have been successfully challenged by drivers since the launch of Birmingham’s controversial scheme, our investigation has revealed. The city council has backed down and scrapped a huge 48,256 penalty charge notices after motorists refused to pay because they believed them to be unfair.
And that figure was only up to the end of 2022, meaning the exact total is likely even higher. In addition, fines which have only recently been appealed will still be being processed.
It’s also emerged that almost 70,000 fines in total have been written off by council bosses, including those which were successfully challenged. The huge number of penalties cancelled by the authority once again raises questions about the running of the CAZ.
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The details were handed to BirminghamLive by the city council following a freedom of information request. It means around 2,700 penalty charge notices (PCNs) have been cancelled every month on average since the launch of the CAZ in June 2021 – with more likely still being processed from the end of 2022.
Around 6% of all PCNS – more than one in 20 – have been scrapped by the city council since the launch of the CAZ. The city council has given up chasing around another 20,000 fines which were never paid because of the resources and time that would be needed to collect all the cash owed.
It means these drivers got away without ever having to pay. The council said: “In the 18-month period, since the start of the enforcement of the Clean Air Zone in 2021, there have been 69,114 penalty charge notices written off so far which is around 6% of the total issued.
“This represents a combination of cases that have been challenged/appealed and the reasons of mitigation accepted/discretion exercised, as per the council’s discretion policy, and cases where the council has been unable to collect payment or trace the registered keeper.” It added: “There have been 48,256 penalty charge notices that have been rescinded so far where the reasons of mitigation have been accepted/discretion exercised, that are included in the total.”
Around 50,000 motorists are still being fined every month for misusing the CAZ, as people continue to be caught out in huge numbers as drivers either ignore the CAZ or don’t understand how it works or where it operates. Despite criticism, the city council, which is expected to make a £50 million profit from the zone by the end of 2023, insists it is having the desired impact by cutting emissions around the city centre.
Bosses have also had difficulties enforcing fines, with thousands simply refusing to pay. Only around 40% of penalties are paid within a month.
It costs £8 a day for cars which don’t meet emissions standards to drive in the CAZ but the idea is the charge will act as a deterrent. Drivers who fail to pay are hit with fines of £120, cut to £60 if paid within 14 days.
A Birmingham City Council spokesman said: “The purpose of the Clean Air Zone is to improve air quality in the city centre. Since its introduction it has helped reduce the number of the most polluting vehicles that enter the zone every day. This is helping to improve air quality.”
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