Nicholas Rogers is the London Assembly member for South West London and the Transport Spokesman for the London Assembly Conservatives
Sadiq Khan plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone to the entirety of Greater London. This is the wrong policy at the wrong time implemented in the wrong way. It is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Outer London; it will hammer those who can least afford it and it is the wrong approach to improving air quality in London.
These are the statistics for car ownership in London:
Stark figures, which reflect many concrete realities about inner and outer London. Inner London has high levels of public transport provision. It has Boris Bikes. It is dense. It is eminently walkable.
Outer London, however, is a very different proposition. Darwin ward in Bromley, for example, is bigger than the London Borough of Islington. It has no railway station and limited bus services. The Tube is a distant dream. How else are residents supposed to move around and live their lives if not by car? Feltham, in my constituency, is full of shift workers in the aviation industry. It’s not easy finding public transport that will get you to work for an 0430 start; as a lifelong shift worker, I have personal experience of this. Some people simply have to drive – and in outer London the public transport options often simply do not exist.
In outer London, too, people’s lives are just as likely – if not more so – to be oriented out of London as inwards into London. This means that friends and family with older cars will have to now pay £12.50 to visit. Imagine the impact on families where grandparents drive over to fulfil childcaring duties whilst the parents are at work; such arrangements may well no longer be feasible.
At a time of rising living costs, it is unconscionable that the Mayor would seek to impose yet another burden on London’s taxpayers – on top of his recent 8.8 per cent council tax hike. Those with non-compliant vehicles would find themselves paying £12.50 per day to drive in London. If you need to drive every day, you would spend over £4,500 per year.
ONS statistics show that 60 per cent of London households earning between £23,192 and £29,546 own a vehicle. Nobody could possibly suggest that this level of household income qualifies one as being ‘wealthy’. A £12.50 daily charge is the last thing these fellow Londoners need.
Businesses would feel the strain, too. When the ULEZ expanded to the North and South Circulars, I spoke with a florist in Kew, right inside the South Circular. They were stuck between the rock of paying £12.50 per vehicle per day to make deliveries in London and the hard place of paying tens of thousands of pounds to upgrade their fleet; they could not afford the latter option and are now finding that many orders are simply not profitable. Sadiq Khan’s policy has had a direct, negative impact on their ability to do business in London.
Finally, the policy of expanding the ULEZ is in and of itself the wrong way to approach London’s air quality problem. The Mayor has set aside almost £400,000,000 for projects to deal with air quality, of which ULEZ expansion will be the big ticket item. If you had this amount to spend on air quality, why would you choose to spend it on a gigantic camera network which will require very high ongoing maintenance and operation costs and which will inevitably become obsolete within a few years? The Mayor is spending almost £400 million on a gigantic stick – imagine the size of the carrot we could buy for that amount.
The Mayor could be using this money to green the bus fleet or increase the amount of electric vehicle charging points in London. He could even just sink the whole lot into a big scrappage scheme. Instead he is choosing the cameras. It is a very odd approach.
London Assembly Conservatives are leading the charge against this policy. We are encouraging as many Londoners as possible to reply to the consultation making their views known. We are also running a petition as another way people can oppose the Mayor’s plans. You can sign here.
The Mayor should be doing all he can to boost London’s recovery by supporting residents and businesses. Instead, he wants to saddle Londoners with yet more taxes. These plans absolutely must be opposed.