The launch of the controversial Birmingham Clean Air Zone (CAZ) yesterday (1 June) has created confusion among drivers trying to pay the fees for the first time, after it emerged that they won’t be charged for the first two weeks of the scheme.

This decision was not communicated to businesses or the general public before today’s launch which resulted in fierce criticism from the Conservative opposition at Birmingham City Council.

The local authority confirmed this morning that drivers in non-compliant vehicles will be exempt from the charge until 14 June as part of a "soft launch" but had not made this public in the run up to the launch. From 14 June to 12 July drivers that transgress will also be offered the chance to pay the daily CAZ charge rather than a £120 fine which kicks in if drivers fail to pay within six days.

The CAZ was due to launch last year but was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the scheme pre-Euro 6 trucks and buses face a £50 charge, whilst cars, taxis and vans which do not meet the requirements will be charged £8 per day.

The zone, which is in operation 24 hours a day, every day of the year, covers the area inside the A4540 ring road.

Gary Sambrook, Conservative MP for Birmingham Northfield, said that it “beggars belief that Labour's flagship policy for Birmingham stumbles on launch day".

Duncan Buchanan, RHA policy director, said: “This is an idiotic tax on enterprise and work which includes a major through route in its scope. These problems go back to the Joint Air Quality Unit which created rules which drag in vehicles that should not be included such as Euro 5 diesel vans, which were being sold new in 2016, when the focus should have been to get older vehicles off the road.”

Birmingham City Council's cabinet member for transport and environment Waseem Zaffar said: "Whilst we have agreed on a two-week soft launch period where people won't have to pay, I would encourage everyone to use this time to check their vehicles, familiarise themselves with the charging process and check out the support that is still available through the Brum Breathes website."

Birmingham City Council said the scheme will help cut emissions in the city which contribute to 900 premature deaths a year in Birmingham.

  • Freight in the City is hosting an online workshop on fleet decarbonisation in association with Birmingham City Council on June 17