THE head of Oxfordshire's biggest council has been accused of being dishonest about how he is tackling air pollution.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said his authority had been supporting trials of electric buses which never took place.

City councillor Tom Hayes, who asked Mr Hudspeth to list just five things the county was doing to clean the air in Oxford, said the leader's factually inaccurate and otherwise 'woeful' response was so bad that the authority could no longer be trusted to get pollution below dangerous and illegal levels.

Labour councillor Mr Hayes put his question to the Conservative county leader this week after figures in June showed both councils' efforts to tackle pollution were having diminishing returns, with levels of toxic Nitrogen Dioxide plateauing above the EU legal limit.

Mr Hayes, whose ward includes Oxford's most polluted street St Clements, asked Mr Hudspeth: "Air pollution has gone up in parts of Oxford and the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better, contributing to hundreds of avoidable deaths every year.

"Everybody visiting, living, and working in St Clement’s is breathing air that is getting worse, possibly causing them to get very ill.

"Can you tell me five specific steps this county council is taking as local transport authority to clean the air that St Clement’s breathes every day, and the total sum being spent this municipal year?"

In a written response Mr Hudspeth firstly said levels of NO2 across Oxford dropped 35 per cent in the ten years up to 2016.

He said this was partly down to the low emissions zone which the city and county jointly introduced in the centre of Oxford in 2014, which requires buses to meet existing European Union emissions standards.

In terms of answer Mr Hayes' question, Mr Hudspeth cited

a) a £30,000 feasibility study the county has jointly funded with the city into creating a zero-emissions zone in the city centre

b) proposals in the county's Oxford Transport Strategy to encourage more people to walk and cycle

c) a proposed workplace parking levy or congestion charge designed to encourage people to use public transport

Confusingly, Mr Hudspeth also said the county had been supporting trials of wireless induction-charged buses – trials which never took place because Oxford Bus Company's bid for government funding was turned down.

Mr Hayes responded to the statement by saying: "The county council response to my written question was woeful.

"I'm concerned that the county council's stated commitment to reducing air pollution isn't to be trusted."

The county was asked if it would like to respond to Mr Hayes but it did not reply within the deadline given.