The councillor in charge of Oxfordshire’s highways insists Oxford’s zero emission zone (ZEZ) is not being used as a cash cow.
Rolled out as a pilot on a handful of city centre roads in February, the scheme sees automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras generate charges between £2.00 and £10.00 for any vehicles that produce emissions. The prices will double from August 2025.
The charges apply between 7.00am and 7.00pm every day on Bonn Square, Queen Street, Cornmarket Street, part of Market Street, Ship Street, St Michael’s Street, New Inn Hall Street and Shoe Lane. It is set to be extended to cover much of the city centre next year, subject to public feedback.
The BBC reported at the start of September that just under £120,000 had been generated in fees and fines for non-payment with Councillor Andrew Gant (Lib Dem, Wolvercote & Summertown), the county’s cabinet member for highway management, asked to clarify how the authority would be spending any surplus.
“The main purpose of the ZEZ is to change behaviour, not to generate income,” he said.
“We’d prefer to have no income at all from fines. Numerous signs are in place well in advance of the ZEZ to inform drivers of the scheme, and we allow drivers to pay the ZEZ charge and therefore avoid a fine up to six days after they come into the zone.
“By law, ZEZ income can only be used to cover the costs of setting up and running the scheme and, if there’s a surplus once these costs have been covered, facilitating the achievement of its local transport policies.
“The council has outlined the kinds of transport improvements we’d like to fund. This includes schemes to support the transition to zero emission transport, such as electric vehicle charging points or active travel schemes.
“The ZEZ is still relatively new, and we don’t yet know what the surplus will be. However, as soon as this becomes clearer, we’ll provide more information about how any surplus will be used to support the objectives of the ZEZ.”
Councillor Brad Baines (Lab, Isis), who raised the initial question, went on to ask: “Whilst I agree with cabinet member about the ZEZ not being an income generator, funds have been raised.
“Will these be earmarked for investment in active travel infrastructure in Oxford, making it easier to walk and cycle rather than drive?”
Councillor Gant replied: “Yes, that is the law, and I thank the councillor for the opportunity to make that clear.
“It is often said that we are just using these schemes as a cash-generating exercise for the council. I have never been quite sure why people think that is a bad thing, but by law, funds raised from transport schemes have to be reinvested in transport schemes.”