Carshalton and Wallington’s MP Elliot Colburn has claimed Conservative MPs are exploring options to legally challenge the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is expanding ULEZ for a second time, and from August 29, 2023, motorists in outer London boroughs will have to pay £12.50 per day.
The charge is expected to disproportionately impact small businesses and charities.
Conservative London Assembly members have attacked the charge by describing it as an additional “cost-of-living tax” and the Conservative run councils in Hillingdon, Harrow, Bexley and Croydon have raised concerns low-income communities will be hit the hardest.
Khan said the difficulties people were experiencing with rising costs was a “key consideration.”
However, he added: “In the end, public health comes before political expediency.”
Colburn said: “It is inevitable the charge will massively impact those on the lowest salaries or no salary at all because it is targeting those oldest vehicles which people may not be able to afford upgrading to ULEZ compliant vehicles.”
Colburn highlighted the timing of the introduction was not appropriate, as people were already “struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.”
However, Colburn said Conservative MPs were in the process of exploring ways to legally challenge the expansion and that boroughs could make the implementation difficult.
He said: “London’s Conservative MPs are working our way through the legal framework of both the devolution settlement to City Hall and also what options we might have over the course of the next few months.
“I know the resolve of the Conservative boroughs is very strong. If the boroughs wanted to make a stand, they could make it very difficult for TfL to install this.
“I don’t think TfL can justify spending money on challenging the boroughs in court if they are not going to comply with this.”
London Conservative MPs against the expansion include the former prime minister Boris Johnson, who recently tweeted his support for the leaders of Hillingdon Council.
Colburn said the decision to expand ULEZ was purely motivated by money making, as opposed to genuine concerns about the environment and Londoners’ health.
Colburn said: ““This is obviously about money and has got next to nothing to do with air quality. Outer London does not have the same air quality concerns that inner London does.”
Colburn also suggested the ULEZ expansion is only the start of additional road charges for more motorists in the future.
He said: “In terms of his motivation, it is there in black and white in TfL’s own consultation documents, TfL is already employing people to look at road pricing schemes.
“ULEZ is just step one on what I think is going to be a much greater journey for the future of motorists in London.
“Even those who have ULEZ compliant vehicles are worried about this as they understand it is only step one.”
A high-profile endorsement of ULEZ recently came from the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
In a post on Facebook, Dicaprio said: “London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to expand his flagship air quality policy, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will mean 5 million more people breathing cleaner air, and will help to build a better, greener, fairer London for everyone.
“This is the kind of large-scale, decisive action we need to halve emissions this decade, coupled with the implementation of nature-based solutions.
“The expansion of the ULEZ will reduce the number of Londoners living in areas exceeding interim World Health Organization (WHO) targets for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by 13 percent – including children at 145 schools.”
Colburn said it was about time the mayor started listening to Londoners as opposed to celebrities.
“I find it very odd that someone who doesn’t live in London, has no idea what outer London looks like and commutes everywhere on private jet has anything to add on commuting in the capital,” said Colburn.
Motorists wanting to find out if their vehicle is compliant can go to TFL’s vehicle checker.
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “The Mayor has been clear that it was not an easy decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone London-wide but a necessary one to reduce the capital’s toxic air pollution, tackle the climate emergency and cut congestion in our city. Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year due to the toxic air in our city with the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in London’s outer boroughs, which the ULEZ doesn’t currently cover. Children across London are growing up with stunted lungs while adults have greater risk of heart disease, dementia and other serious illnesses.
“Most vehicles – more than four in five – seen in the zone will not need to pay the ULEZ – so people should check if their vehicle is compliant by using TfL’s vehicle checker. The Mayor has listened to Londoners throughout this process, which is why he’s announced the biggest scrappage scheme yet – £110m – to help the Londoners who need it most, including low income and disabled Londoners, on top of the £61million he provided for previous scrappage schemes. He continues to call on the government to provide a national scrappage scheme or provide additional funding to London as it has done for other cities implementing Clean Air Zones.
“Every penny raised by the expansion will be reinvested back into delivering public transport, including the biggest ever expansion of bus routes in outer London. Expanding the ULEZ London-wide will strike the best balance between maximising the health and environmental benefits for Londoners while minimising the cost to drivers.”
Featured image credit: Elliot Colburn