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Today is the first National Clean Air Day and Core Cities UK is pleased to support this new national day of action to tackle one of our biggest policy priorities.

The day is an opportunity for individuals, communities, business and cities to influence decision makers and make change in order to achieve cleaner, safer and healthier places for us all.

We estimate that poor air quality causes 15,000 avoidable deaths every year in our cities. More than a quarter of the roads identified as being over the air quality limit are in Core Cities or their surrounding urban areas.

The need for firm and quick action is clear. As well as the shocking number of deaths, thousands of people suffer from long term illnesses as a result of poor air quality, ruining quality of life and contributing to low productivity and worklessness.

This should be a policy priority at the top of the Westminster ‘to do’ list, but for too long it has been mired in indecision and delay, with the latest version of the Government’s Air Quality Action plan now subject to further legal action.

As City Leaders and Mayors we are committed to tackling this issue, but we want our cities to be able to lead the way and have the greater freedoms and flexibilities to enable us to deliver at a local level.

In Bristol we are working with South Gloucestershire Council on a feasibility study which will determine how pollution needs to be reduced to meet acceptable health standards. It will look at options as to how we can meet this need taking in to account those least financially able to make a change so it doesn’t become a tax on the poor with no options for support.

The Government should support cities to encourage local responses to reducing congestion, while encouraging public transport and sustainable methods of travel. It should work with our cities and business to implement local solutions flexibility that quickly delivers and offers better value for money. It should consider not just electric vehicles, but also consider options on other fuel technologies, for example hydrogen and LPG.

This is the bigger picture, there are also a host of individual actions that we can take collectively, such as regularly servicing our cars and boilers, talking to employers about providing incentives for those who walk and cycle and even cutting down on use of parcel delivery services.

We hope that thousands of people will make a pledge today and leave their car at home and opt instead to cycle or walk, take the bus and make the most of our Summer weather and, if you have to drive, switching off your engine when stuck in traffic.

For me and my Core Cities colleagues, the message of Clean Air Day is that individual action combined with active and focused leadership and policies can make a real difference to this issue.

Today is a day when cities will champion action at an individual, local and national level. It is great to see so many events in schools, shopping centres and public spaces across the Core Cities network involving so many people, stressing the positive message that there are things we can all do to make air cleaner across our cities.