Plan Insurance Blog

Councils Continue To Challenge The Legality Of The ULEZ Expansion

Those living in the outer boroughs of London just received a message regarding the ULEZ expansion… “We’re contacting you to let you know that the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is expanding across all London boroughs from 29 August 2023 to help clear London’s air.”

Inside the Ultra Low Emission Zone, motorists are charged £12.50 per day for driving non-compliant (aka high-polluting) cars. Khan says expanding to outer London boroughs is ‘not easy but necessary to reduce the capital’s toxic air pollution’.

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Many residents and officials are seriously unhappy with the ULEZ expansion

As we covered last month in the plan blog, large numbers of residents in the outer London boroughs are in an uproar. Surrey county council has now announced that they are joining Bromley, Bexley, Hillingdon and Harrow councils in their public protests again the change in August. In fact, 11 out of the 19 outer boroughs have publicly expressed their criticism of the expanding ULEZ zone.

Alongside the expansion, Mayor Khan is introducing a £110m scrappage scheme. He says this will provide low-income Londoners with grants of up to £2,000 to replace their high-polluting vehicles.

Khan has set a seven-month timescale for implementation. Given the current economic backdrop many believe this is not long enough for people to contingency plan effectively. The outer boroughs have varying levels of transport links. Some don’t have tube stations or London buses. This move will likely push those who need the most help to spend money they don’t currently have.

Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives are taking a big jab at London Mayor Sadiq Khan

Ian Edwards, leader of Hillingdon council that in “a decade nothing has caused quite the anger amongst our residents as this extension of Ulez”. He believes the extra costs are being directed onto the “shoulders of low-income families, elderly people and those least about to adapt”.

Ex-prime minister Boris Johnson thinks that Sadiq Khan is trying to impose a “mad lefty tax” on “hard-pressed motorists”. Conservative-ran boroughs Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Harrow, and Hillingdon councils recently released a joint statement on the expansion. They stated plainly that they would “do everything in our power to stop it from going ahead”.

The Conservative party have taken firmly against Khan’s changes, both in council action and Boris Johnson’s public decry of the scheme. Many believe this is more about party politics than anything else, although it does echo genuine outrage by residents. There is also a 2024 Mayoral election, and the further the Torys can push back the changes, the worse it makes a Labour candidate (specifically Khan himself) look in the recent minds of voters.

What will happen next with the ULEZ expansion?

Councils have until the end of February to decide whether or not to ask the High Court to intervene. Khan has claimed that the opposition is simply a strategy from Tory councils working for their vested interests.

Boris Johnson’s intervention pointed to the fact that inner London is where most people consider the air quality to be a problem. Outer London contains many green areas, so car emissions are less of an issue. He also points out that by 2030 there won’t be any new fossil fuel cars sold, which should dramatically change air pollution. Though the current Mayor may argue that those more heavily polluting vehicles disproportionately contribute to dangerously poor air quality when travelling towards more central areas.

Many councils have asked that the ULEZ expansion be delayed until people have a respite from the cost-of-living crisis. For most of Britain, this – not the environment – is the pressing issue right now.

Labour leader Darren Rodwell said the £110m scheme would not give enough assistance to people forced to change their vehicles. Labour-led Redbridge Council said businesses operating in boroughs like Essex that trade in central London need to be adequately supported.

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