An authority that prides itself on its green policy has said motorists reducing their emissions would be the "worst-case scenario" due to less profit being generated through charges and fines.

The comments were made in an Oxford City Council cabinet agenda report for a meeting yesterday (April 17).

A small ZEZ (Zero Emission Zone) pilot area has been in place for nine streets in Oxford since February 2022 but the final rollout will involve most of the city centre and is being spearheaded by Oxfordshire County Council.

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The scheme involves charging non-electric vehicles with the aim of improving air quality.

A council officer stated in the public report: "The worst-case scenario is a scenario whereby every single vehicle that enters the ZEZ Pilot area is compliant (and therefore where zero income is generated to both councils).

"This is a very unlikely (and practically impossible) scenario to be considered."

The official goes on to say that data from 2022 suggests "only 13 per cent" entering the ZEZ pilot in Oxford were compliant and there is a general reduction in the national and local uptake rates of zero emission vehicles, impacted by high electricity costs and inflation.

Oxford Mail: Oxford ZEZ.Oxford ZEZ. (Image: Ed Nix)

We approached Oxford City Council for comment on whether the money-factor provided an incentive to the council to discourage ZEZ compliance.

A spokesman said: "This section of the report talks about the financial implications of the ZEZ Pilot scheme only. This section highlights that the worst-case financial scenario is that the scheme generates zero income - generating a significant financial cost to the council."

"The Transport Act 2000 requires that any net income to the city council from the ZEZ pilot scheme is only be used to support local transport policies and schemes, therefore supporting more people to use sustainable vehicles.

"The council is clear that the main purpose of the ZEZ pilot is to tackle toxic air pollution in the city. 

"Furthermore, the council has been encouraging local businesses and residents to adopt sustainable zero-emission travel, such as launching an electric-cargo bikes partnership for businesses, encouraging park and ride and bus use, supporting electric buses, and installing 133 city centre bike cycle racks."

The cabinet report says the total income raised from all sources of the ZEZ Pilot scheme up to March 31, 2023 was £341,351.

Independent city councillor Saj Malik said: "This is a whole money-making exercise.

Oxford Mail: Saj Malik.Saj Malik. (Image: Oxford City Council.)

"Environment is not their top agenda.

"Their agenda is to rake in as much money as possible."

Green councillor Emily Kerr, of the St Mary's ward, added: "For me, a 100 per cent compliance rate with the ZEZ would be great news for the residents, workers, and visitors who spend time in central Oxford and have to breathe our polluted air."

Oxford Mail: Emily Kerr.Emily Kerr. (Image: Oxford City Council.)

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said: "There is no incentive to discourage zero emission zone compliance.

"Any income from the ZEZ will be used to pay for its ongoing development and operation as well as to improve travel locally, including to support a transition to zero-emission transport.”