LABOUR councillors have hit out at delays to the launch of a clean air zone for York.

The group claims that pollution is leading to up to 160 premature deaths each year in the city. A clean air zone was due to be launched in 2020, with the aim of reducing emissions from buses and improving air quality.

Labour councillor Danny Myers said the group launched the plans in 2014 and claimed the scheme will not be in place before the local elections in May 2019.

But Cllr Andrew Waller the council's deputy leader and executive member for the environment said the current Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition are the only administration to put forward “concrete plans” for a clean air zone.

Cllr Danny Myers, Labour’s environment spokesperson, said this means six years will have passed between the decision to create a clean air zone was taken and the scheme was actually rolled out.

He said: “These measures are vital if the council is to push a reduction in harmful emissions from higher-polluting vehicles.

“When we were running the council we were setting up putting a clean air zone in place by 2014 which would directly tackle areas that need attention, because of those premature deaths.

“We are looking at six years to introduce the clean air zone, and for the much more straightforward anti-idling measures, it will have taken at least four years, assuming it is not delayed.”

The Green group leader, Cllr Andy D’Agorne, has questioned all three parties’ commitment to the issue, saying: “Neither Labour nor the current administration have taken the low emission strategy seriously enough, with no actual progress after six years in terms of developing freight transhipment.

“We certainly agree with Labour that anti-idling measures agreed nine months ago should be in place by now to encourage bus drivers to switch off engines while waiting at city-centre stops.”

Cllr Waller has signed a cross-party letter to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, calling for an extra £1.5 billion investment to boost the existing clean air fund.

He said: “It is essential for cities like York, who have areas of air quality hotspots, but are outside the list of cities receiving significant funding, to be able to invest in cleaner vehicles.

“This requires Government to recognise the need to provide adequate resources more widely, and to properly fund the work that needs to take place.

“Only this council has consulted on its implementation and, I had worked to ensure that City of York pressured government for the funding to ensure that the Park and Ride fleet could be electric."