Pressure mounts on London Mayor to reconsider ULEZ expansion
London’s mayor faces growing pressure from councils to reconsider the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion.
Eleven of the 19 outer London councils have expressed their apprehension, with some considering legal action.
The seven-month timescale of implementation, the limited scrappage scheme and poor public transport links are some of their misgivings.
Sadiq Khan has said the “decision was not easy but necessary to reduce the capital’s toxic air pollution”.
Aimed at improving air quality, the ULEZ will include outer London from 29 August.
People across the capital will be subject to a £12.50 daily charge for driving non-compliant vehicles in the zone.
Research from the mayor’s office shows about 200,000 high-polluting vehicles are driven regularly in the capital and asserts that roughly 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year due to toxic air, with the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in London’s outer boroughs.
Council’s that have expressed concerns include five Conservative, three Liberal Democrat, two Labour and an independent.
Conservative councils Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Harrow and Hillingdon have released a joint statement about the ULEZ extension, saying they would “do everything in our power to stop it from going ahead”.
The coalition of the councils is considering legal action to try to block the scheme.
Executive mayor of Conservative-led Croydon borough Jason Perry told the BBC: “Punishing those who cannot afford to buy a more modern vehicle is deeply unfair and out of touch, particularly at a time when the cost of living is increasing.”
Leader of Independent Havering council Ray Morgon said: “We are in contact with other London Councils who oppose the ULEZ expansion to understand specifically how they intend to block or challenge the mayor’s decision.”
Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, Mr Khan said opposition to his scheme was a political strategy by Tory councils “in the pocket of vested interests”.
The BBC has been told that while those who might instigate a judicial review accept it would be unlikely to succeed, such a move could be a useful “delay tactic” to “tangle the mayor up in court and push a decision on the matter closer to the 2024 London mayoral election”.
Sutton and Harrow councils – Liberal Democrat and Labour-led respectively – have refused to sign the “Section 8” agreement allowing Transport for London (TfL) to install cameras in the borough.
However, TfL’s “reserve powers” enable it to install two-thirds of the necessary 2,750 CCTV cameras for the scheme without council permission.
Documents on the ULEZ expansion state: “Section 8 agreement with the highway authority is not required as TfL is acting in its statutory capacity as traffic authority for the signals and road.”
As part of the ULEZ expansion, the mayor has announced a £110m scrappage scheme to provide low-income Londoners with a grant of up to £2,000 for replacing their car.
Sutton and fellow Lib Dem-led councils Kingston and Richmond, as well as Labour-run Barking and Dagenham & Redbridge, argue the scheme does not provide enough compensation for people forced to change their vehicles, especially given the increased cost of living.
Kingston, Richmond and Sutton have requested the mayor delays the implementation of ULEZ, extends the scrappage scheme and commits to investing more money in transport in the outer London boroughs.
Kingston Council leader Andreas Kirsch told the BBC: “We would like to see the scheme delayed for at least a year to reflect the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on businesses and residents.”
In Richmond, there is concern that elderly residents could miss funerals after TfL refused an exemption on a single road that leads to the tip and crematorium.
Council leader Gareth Roberts said: “When TfL denied an exemption, we explored our legal powers on preventing camera installations. We were advised that the mayor’s ability to override local decisions is very strong.
“Any case we bought forward would require a cost of local council money. We are not prepared to waste taxpayer money.”
Richmond Council passed a motion on Tuesday calling for a delay to the ULEZ expansion so more measures to support residents could be put in place.
Despite Mr Khan having denied that any Labour councils were opposed to the ULEZ expansion in its current form, Barking and Dagenham Council is among the local authorities to express concerns over the viability of the scrappage scheme.
Council leader Darren Rodwell said the £110m scheme would not provide enough compensation for people forced to change their vehicles, and more time was needed.
And Labour-led Redbridge Council said it had “shared concerns with TfL around eligibility for the ULEZ scrappage scheme and been clear that small businesses operating within our borough, businesses in Essex that trade in London and low-income households must be appropriately supported”.