Carrots needed before sticks – Leeds council ‘building reputation as anti-car city’, says councillor


By David Spereall, local democracy reporter

Leeds is developing a reputation as an “anti-car city”, a councillor has claimed, after it emerged local drivers could be hit with more charges in future.

Conrad Hart-Brooke, Liberal Democrat councillor for Rothwell, said he backed ambitions to get people out of private vehicles, but that they needed “carrots” before “sticks”.

A senior member of the administration insisted the council was not “anti-car” but that charges could be a “silver bullet” to improve air quality.

Leeds City Council is targeting a 30 per cent cut in the number of local journeys being taken by car by 2030, as part of its pledge to make the city carbon neutral.

To achieve this, it’s trying to develop so-called ’20-minute neighbourhoods’, where people can get to everywhere they need on foot, by bike or via public transport.

But as part of a presentation to the council’s climate emergency advisory committee on Monday, councillors were told that “charging measures to reduce demand for travel” by car could be considered in future years.

Responding to that, Councillor Hart-Brooke said: “I worry when I see things like that, because ultimately charging and adding costs in disadvantages the poor in our society, disproportionately.

“It’s not the guy in the 4 x 4 or the Volvo who won’t drive, they’ll pay whatever.

“All it does is hurts the people who need access to the city.”

He added: “We really need to get the options stood up that are carrots, before we go in with the sticks.

“We’re developing a reputation as an anti-car city. That’s great, but we need the options for people to use as an alternative.”

Bus and train services in and around Leeds have been stretched to breaking point since the pandemic, with bus operators in particular cutting routes due to a driver shortage.

Meanwhile, Leeds City Council has already come under attack in recent weeks for its plans to charge drivers for parking at parks and green spaces around the city.

It’s not believed there are any more specific proposals to charge Leeds motorists being developed at this stage. But clean air zones, toll roads and pricier city centre parking are all examples of policies that have been put in place elsewhere to discourage driving.

Leeds was due to have a clean air zone introduced in 2020, but that was scrapped after local taxi drivers and bus companies switched to greener vehicles before it was introduced.

Responding to Coun Hart-Brooke, Councillor Helen Hayden, the council’s executive member for climate, said: “There will be people who accuse us of being anti-car.

“The strategy is for Leeds to be a place where you don’t need a car, and that will benefit the poorest the most because they don’t have cars at the moment, yet they suffer five times more from air quality-related illnesses.

“We’re not anti-car. (The ambition) is not ‘you shouldn’t have a car’. It’s ‘you don’t need a car’.

“I don’t want to bring in any more charges than there are at the moment, but that’s not to say you don’t have it in your arsenal.”

Councillor Hayden said efforts were being made to improve public transport, install more cycle ways and make walking and biking “easier and safer”.

But she cautioned: “If all those don’t work you need something in your back pocket to be a silver bullet, or to really move things along.”


  1. When I was growing up, having a car and the ability to drive freely was something any politician worth their salt would support wholeheartedly. New road building was something to be proud of. I’m sick of the current crop of politicians whose only purpose in life is to annoy, to frustrate, to limit the public. My message to these awful freaks is: GET OUT OF THE ROAD, BEFORE YOU GET RUN OVER! Let’s get back to aspirational policies that help the public live better lives. Why should I want to get out my car to get on some overcrowded bus with loads of strangers all blaring music or chat on their tinny phones, breathing whatever viruses they have into the air? Get real – this is a backward step of no benefit to the public. Private transport is a hallmark of success, freedom and happiness. If politicians don’t support and improve the private transport experience, then they’re simply not fit for purpose and should be sidelined.

    • Yeah lets just pretend global warming doesn’t exist and that cars aren’t the least efficient mode of transport ever.

      Because the world mustn’t change anything from when you were child because that how its always been. Your caveman ancestors from 10,000 years ago were driving around in cars and so will you!!!!!!!!!!!! Its not like you are griping about something that has only existed for a century.

  2. Adam! Firstly, my congratulations in being a ‘hallmark of success, freedom and happiness’ by owning your own car. Well done you!
    When I was growing up in the 1970s it’s true, having a car was a luxury. It meant you had a bit of money. Most houses only had one car, if that.
    The result was there weren’t anywhere near as many cars on the road as there are now.
    I know on our small cul-de-sac most householders now have two, sometimes three cars, or a couple of cars and maybe a van. Which is great, but there’s often nowhere to park them all! Our infrastructure simply wasn’t built to cope with it.
    Our roads are often choked due to the volume of traffic.
    Building more and wider roads simply isn’t an option in many places without bulldozing houses and businesses to widen them, particularly in the inner city. What we need is a better public transport system. Most forward thinking major cities in Europe have one – why not Leeds?
    Far from it being a backward step, it’s of benefit to the environment and for speedier journeys for all modes of transport. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘aspirational policies’ but I’m not sure I’d want the car-dominated world you’re aspiring to create.
    Now if people were to criticise the lack of a viable alternative to the car, I’m all ears. This is an area which needs investment and a coherent strategy.

  3. This is a perfect example of the incompetent labour council of Leeds. West, Northwest Leeds is impossible to access Leeds in rush hour, you need 45 minutes to 1 hour window to arrive in Leeds City centre on a good day. The private hire trade don’t pick-up fares going into to Leeds in between these times because of the no access in the bus gate lane’s, which 75% of lcc private hire vehicles are hybrid. This is a ridiculous rule by lcc labour council and also discrimination against the private hire trade of Leeds City Council badge holders. The clean air zone (caz) doesn’t benefit anyone because they is more traffic congestion and pollution than ever before because of this ridiculous system Leeds labour council have put in place. They are destroying are wonderful City, business and encouraging new business into are City isn’t happening, Leeds is becoming a ghost town with more businesses closing or relocating elsewhere. Thank you Leeds City Council for your incompetence.

    • “This is a perfect example of the incompetent labour…minutes to 1 hour window to arrive in Leeds City centre on a good day”

      Leeds is the only major city in Europe without a mass transit system.

      “The private hire trade don’t pick-up fares going…discrimination against the private hire trade of Leeds City Council badge holders”

      Global warming? I don’t know her.

      “The clean air zone (caz) doesn’t benefit anyone…system Leeds labour council have put in place”

      Poor air quality leads to increased health conditions. But who cares if someone else’s child dies of asthma as long as you can get where you’re going.

      Cars are destroying our wonderful city and its businesses while discouraging new businesses from establishing in our city. Leeds is becoming a ghost town with more businesses closing or relocating elsewhere. Thank you internal combustion cars for your pointless inefficiency and the global levels of destruction you are causing.

  4. Caz doesn’t benefit anyone in Leeds because there’s for pollution now than ever before because of all the congestion in Leeds. If you want better clean air zone in Leeds, you need to put a congestion charge on high pollution vehicles, not on the private hire trade in Leeds who have a hybrid vehicles. People need transport to get around Leeds. The incompetent Leeds Labour Council had the chance of putting a tram system in place but after 10years of consultation this incompetent council did nothing and government funding was cancelled withdrawn from the table. Leeds is the only city in Europe for population not to have an alternative transport apart from road and rail. You need a taxi and private hire service for vulnerable adults and children and people with disabilities, majority of the private hire trade is hybrid so this incompetent labour council should be supporting the private hire sector in Leeds and not disseminating them for the public service they provide. Get a grip Leeds City Council.

  5. We are dependant on cars – for work, for shopping (who asked for supermarkets and out of town shopping centres? Not me). They do pollute. But we did not make this situation. Those in power did this. 60 years ago we had local shops and good bus services and wrapped all our shopping in paper etc etc. But we still had cars and lovely day trips and holidays in our car. But all this is madness. It is panto. World leaders have been meeting in Davos in Switzerland. Tony Blair says that he prefers this WEF to Westminster – surely and act of treason. They are pushing on a Climate Change Agenda that will make 20 minute areas benign. Throughout 2020 , 2021, 2022 – cameras have been installed in all junctions and every flipping road has been dug up. Who is paying for all these roadworks? Make no mistake your car is going and if you cannot afford a brand new electric car or indeed to charge its battery then you will effectively be living in your 20 minute zone much as the poor of the C19th did – is not that right Helen Hayden? Combined with Digital ID and Digital Currency we are going to see the loss of our freedoms which will be excused by the Climate Emergency. For the greater good. Oh,and since internet connection is via fibre optic cables underground, what are the 5G masts for? Mobile phones? Dear me.

  6. The most insidious aspect of all this is that 20 minute cities are about control of the populace if taken to the max they tie individuals down to the area in which they live and travel is controlled, look at what is happening in Oxford you have a maximum 100 trips a year and after that you are charged a penalty for travelling out of your allotted neighbourhood into another.
    We do not all lead 9 to 5 lives and public transport is not available 24/7 so car use is essential for some especially those who need to commute for work, or have elderly to look after, non of this of course matters to those in the bubble of governance they will have their pound of flesh from you.

    Does anyone even feel safe out at night having to walk to or cycle to the shops in Leeds there are many areas in Leeds where you just would not feel safe doing so.

    This is all being done with no democratic process and objections to such schemes are willfully ignored, we have transitioned from a democracy to a dictatorial authority where we are ruled by a political elite, it makes no difference where you put your cross on a ballot paper all parties are fully signed it to this nonsense. We have sleep walked into a complete erosion of freedom to go about our business of just living our lives.


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