THE GOVERNMENT is set to unveil an unprecedented crackdown on diesel drivers - a £20 a day charge to enter towns and cities.

Regulators are planning to mandate local authorities to take action against drivers of the worst polluting vehicles.

The first so-called T (for toxin) charge comes into force in London this autumn.

But civil servants have drawn up plans for similar schemes in 35 towns and cities across England.

Among the areas believed to be facing a T-charge are York and Middlesbrough.

Andrea Leadsom, the environment secretary, will unveil the proposals - which could hit as many as ten million drivers - later this month.

The plans have outraged drivers' groups because Ms Leadsom is understood to have rejected calls for a diesel scrappage scheme to help drivers swap their cars for a greener alternative. Ministers say the likely £2bn cost will be too high.

Instead, they are planning to hit diesel drivers where it hurts most - the pocket - in a bid to make them buy a more environmentally-friendly vehicle.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is set to announce that the most polluting vehicles will incur a £12.50 fee to enter an ultra-low emission zone being launched in the centre of the capital, reportedly in 2019.

This would be one year earlier than scheduled.

Those liable for the charge include diesel cars that are pre-Euro 6 standard - a limit which was only introduced in September 2015.

It will cover the same area as the congestion charge zone and apply all day, every day.

In nine of the 10 most polluted UK cities, the Government is said to be considering options such as banning dirty cars from centres, issuing daily charges or even a mixture of the two.

In another 25 towns, commercial lorries, taxis and coaches would face similar bans and charges. 

Ministers are hoping to deflect some of the blame by pointing to a High Court defeat last year, which found Government plans to be inadequate, and EU laws which say countries must act as quickly as possible.

Furious motoring groups claim drivers are being unduly hit.

AA President Edmund King said many drivers had been encouraged to buy a diesel by the previous Government.

"In fact, previous governments introduced incentives which promoted them," he added. "Frankly they would do better to improve air quality by getting rid of older diesel trucks, buses and taxis which cause most of the pollution."