Cllr Roy Davis, of the Local Government Authority’s regeneration and transport board, said councils would need to convince their tax payers that road pricing would benefit them if they used the powers proposed in the Government’s Draft Local Transport Bill.

Those who decide to plough ahead could face a public backlash, depsite potential environmental benefits.

Cllr Davis, who sits on Luton Borough Council, said improving buses, trains and other public transport was vital to reduce the impact of travel on climate change.

Speaking at a meeting of local authority heads and transport chiefs in London on Wednesday, he said: “If we can’t get people out of their cars and onto public transport we are never going to get anywhere with reducing the impact on climate change.”

Transport chiefs said regional councils could learn from the policies introduced by Ken Livingstone in London to reduce traffic and air pollution.

However, Cllr Davis sounded a note of caution about Government plans to hand local authorities the power to introduce their own congestion charges.

He said: “Some of the packages they give you are ticking and this is one of them.

“People have to sell this to the local population on the basis that this will do something they want.

“Most people in London accept that this was the right thing to do and it has worked.”

Transport minister Rosie Winterton argued that it was right for the Government to devolve powers to reduce congestion and pollution to local authorities.

She said: “We shouldn’t be dictating from the centre what is going to be the local approach.

“This is a bill about allowing local authorities to deliver the best solutions to tailor to local needs.”

She added: “This Bill is emphasising the importance in tackling the vital issue of climate change.”

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie