Councillors have agreed to do more to try and reverse Kirklees’ air pollution problems.
But not before they had a row about whose fault it was.
The ruling Labour group raised a motion to call for the government to do more, criticising it and claiming its strategy did not go far enough.
But opposition groups accused Labour of doing too little to tackle the issue.
Kirklees has a number of poor air quality zones that it has been ordered to improve.
Unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have been found in Huddersfield town centre, Edgerton, Ainley Top, Birchencliffe, Outlane, Heckmondwike, Dewsbury and Birkenshaw.
All the zones are where traffic jams are common or high volumes of waiting or slow traffic are the norm.
Cabinet member responsible, Clr Mus Khan, said poor air quality had serious implications for people’s health and cost a staggering £20 billion a year to the UK economy.
Regionally, the West Yorkshire Low Emission Strategy in 2013 estimated the impact on adult mortality from fine particles to be the equivalent of 1 in 20 deaths within West Yorkshire.
But Clr Khan said the government plan focused on nitrogen oxide pollution whilst failing to address other contributors to poor air quality such as particulate matter, ozone, and sulphur dioxide.
She pointed out that the government’s air quality plan had been “slammed by the High Courts for the third time”.
“When we break down the West Yorkshire figures further, this equates to the equivalent estimate of 173 deaths per year in Kirklees, associated with poor air quality,” Clr Khan said.
“We have seen improvements to this over the last couple of years and Kirklees now has the second lowest mortality rate in comparison to the five West Yorkshire authorities, but this is far from good enough.”
Clr Khan said Kirklees Council had several schemes to reduce pollution including; the West Yorkshire ECO-Stars freight recognition scheme, which encourages operators of commercial vehicles to clean up their fleets; the retrofitting of over 100 school buses with exhaust technology to reduce harmful emissions; the installation of smart traffic lights at busy junctions, which assist with vehicle flows and reduce congestion; and cooperating with The Peak District National Park, Woodland Trust & Yorkshire water to plant more trees.
But Lib Dem Clr Andrew Marchington criticised Labour’s efforts so far.
“It’s not good enough to have a few smart traffic lights and fiddle with a few bus exhausts,” he said.
Clr Marchington said Kirklees needed “major investment” and highlighted the issue with diesel trains.
He added: “We need big ideas from our council and we need to link the places where people live to where they work.”
Lib Dem, Clr Andrew Pinnock, said the Cleckheaton area was being hit by traffic jams on the Chain Bar roundabout, because there was no slip road north off the M62 to Bradford.
He said until one was built, there would be a significant problem.
“The cost of building a slip road will be absolutely astronomical, I make no bones about that.
“If the council is taking leadership on this it needs to talk to the government and Highways England, to make this a priority.”
Conservative, Clr Robert Light, criticised the council’s housing plan.
“Why are we putting new houses in the middle of, or next to, air pollution zones?” he asked.
“The council doesn’t think about what it’s doing and the administration is not thinking strategically.
“If I wanted to be flippant, I would say is this council trying to kill people, allowing these houses to be built?”
Tory, Clr Martyn Bolt, pointed out Kirklees Council still had just three electric vehicles, two of which it had not yet committed to keeping.
Cabinet member, Clr Naheed Mather hit back a the criticism from Lib Dem and Tory members.
“As we know councils are strapped for funding,” she said.
“This is a serious issue, but things don’t happen overnight.
“The Labour administration is doing what it can with the cash that we have.
“I object to people saying there’s no strategic leadership because I beg to differ.”
Leader of the council, Clr David Sheard, said: “This problem is not one that we as a council can solve on our own.
“It’s central government that can make a diesel scrappage scheme.
“It’s central government that can alter the motorways.”
Clr Peter McBride said: “The council is doing its best to alleviate the problem as traffic is now probably the largest contributor to air pollution and particularly with regard to nitrous particulates.
“We are investing large sums to keep traffic moving by making traffic lights interact more effective by addressing pinchpoints in the network.
“This is evident in our plans for Leeds Road, Cooper Bridge and Halifax Road in Huddersfield.”
Clr Khan said further plans included encouraging taxis to be hybrid or electric and revealed they were looking to install a charging network.
She said they would welcome a further diesel scrappage scheme.