Cllr James Hockney represents Bush Hill Park Ward on Enfield Council and is an Executive Member of the Conservative Disability Group
While Labour like to portray themselves as defenders of the most vulnerable, time and again the opposite could be said. This has most recently become the case with the transport policies being implemented by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and Enfield Council’s Labour-controlled administration.
The Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone expansion, and Enfield Labour’s implementation of the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods initiative, are a sign that Labour is waging war on the car.
To make matters worse, both policies will impact the most vulnerable in society, and will actually do very little to tackle climate change. In fact, the LTNs in Enfield will – in all likelihood – make the situation worse.
Transport for All’s Pave The Way report from the start of this year, which examined the impact of all Low Traffic Neighbourhood Schemes on disabled people, is very significant. It highlighted that 72 per cent of participants reported issues with how changes have been communicated, with 77 per cent of participants reporting an increase in journey times. The group also identified a common theme of disabled people feeling a great sense of injustice and unfairness at LTN measures, because there is such a distinct lack of alternative options for transport. One respondent even asked why it should take them 20 minutes longer than everyone else because they could not use a bike.
Overall, Enfield Labour’s implementation of the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods schemes is being felt by all corners of our community. In our recent, successful, by-election campaign in my ward of Bush Hill Park, it was one of the three issues we focused on, because it was constantly being mentioned on the doorstep. We can also look at the impact on the local economy. While it may take time for any widespread challenges to filter through, we are already seeing instances of businesses losing clients because of the impact on local traffic, and other businesses who have decided not to locate in the vicinity of the LTNs because of their potential impact.
Looking at Khan’s ULEZ policy, while the expansion has not come into force yet, we can already see the impact it will have on residents in our community. For those in a non-compliant, older vehicle, they will need to pay £12.50 each day they need to cross over the A406 to go to our local hospital, North Middlesex. This is also before you take other costs into consideration, because for many, Enfield’s LTNs have increased their journey time to the hospital. It is the most vulnerable that are likely to be making regular trips there too, so £12.50 each day will soon start to mount up. There is a grace period available for those with a vehicle registered with a disabled tax class or a disabled passenger vehicles tax class, but these exemptions will only apply until 2025, and no further support is being offered to help those owners find alternative transport.
Concerns have also been raised that the limited exemptions mean that many disabled people, and their associated carers and others, will be forced to pay the £12.50-per-day charge. For a lot of people with a disability, getting on a bus is not an option, and this is where Mayor Khan has fundamentally misunderstood the consequences of his policy to expand the ULEZ.
In Enfield, another significant impact will be on those who cross the A406, because they will be charged each day they make that journey. When you think of small businesses carrying out deliveries, self-employed contractors and others for example, they are being faced with a decision between the daily charge, or an additional (likely expensive) cost to ensure they have a compliant vehicle.
It seems that the Mayor has buried his head in the sand over the impact of his ULEZ expansion though.
Transport for London had to suspend their scrappage schemes last summer due to high demand, but earlier this year the London Assembly Conservatives identified a plan to provide an additional £50 million of funding to reopen the schemes. It was estimated that the plan could have helped scrap more than 7,000 vehicles, and could have gone some way to supporting those who will be affected greatly by the expansion – the most vulnerable. This was, however, ignored by the Mayor.
Khan and Enfield Labour should be taking an active interest in encouraging a switch towards more environmentally-friendly transport. In my own ward of Bush Hill Park, we currently have no electric charging points, for example. Expanding the provision of electric charging points, both in my ward, across Enfield, and across London, would represent more of a ‘carrot’ approach.
In contrast though, Labour is currently using unpopular and divisive measures – and the people who are impacted are often those who have the least voice.