Sadiq Khan's tax plans are highway robbery for London's motorists
With household bills rising, the Mayor of London’s war on motorists threatens to push struggling families over the edge. His latest cash-grabbing wheeze is to impose draconian motoring taxes on outer London, despite the fact that for most residents, driving is no luxury but an absolute necessity. The implications are grossly unfair.
If Sadiq Khan visited Orpington, the constituency I represent, he would find rolling green fields, rural villages, and an independent town detached from the city. It is a different world to central London and therefore alien to the Mayor. From hospital trips and school drop-offs to weekly shops and family visits, many of my constituents rely on their vehicles to get around. They are just as likely to travel into Kent and other home counties as they are to enter the capital. But, apart from reliable trains into central London, few other journeys can be made quickly and easily by public transport.
Orpington isn’t alone-vast swathes of outer London similarly depend on their vehicles. Our city does not have the orbital connections to supplant car use. Unless this issue is solved, new driving charges will simply bring London to a standstill. That’s why Khan’s plan is not “social justice” as he claims-but a regressive raid on people’s wallets that could push the poorest off the road altogether.
His most disastrous proposal could hit over 2.6 million households in London, including 83 per cent of my constituency, with a daily levy of up to £2, equivalent to an annual charge of more than £700 for those who use their cars most days. The Mayor’s other plan to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) across Greater London will target fewer drivers. Yet it is a sledgehammer to those who fall foul of the regulations. The daily £12.50 charge penalises those who can’t afford a new, cleaner car, effectively serving the poorest drivers with an annual bill of more than £4,500.
This was perhaps acceptable in the Congestion Charge zone, with its severe air pollution, and superb public transport alternatives. But imposing ULEZ on rural villages at the edge of outer London is ludicrous. It may cut pollution in the centre, but outside zone one the harms dwarf the benefits.
Another proposal would tax 675,000 motorists driving into Greater London with a daily boundary charge of up to £5.50. Although London-based vehicles could be exempt, the plan will hit places like Orpington hard. It’s effectively a tax on outer boroughs’ ties with neighbouring counties.
It will hurt businesses and public services by deterring people from working in outer London. Over half of the capital’s police officers and firefighters could be hit, plus up to 40 per cent of teaching staff according to a survey of Orpington schools, and a fifth of hospital staff, doctors and nurses at one London NHS Trust.
Khan needs to get out of zone one and make an effort to understand the city he purports to serve. No Mayor who has ever visited Biggin Hill, an essentially rural village on the edge of the capital, would be stupid enough to propose city-centre driving measures across outer London.
Despite Khan’s attempt to dress up new taxes as measures to tackle traffic and pollution, the real aim is clear-bankrolling his administration. Outer London simply does not have the same pollution, nor the same congestion problems. What it does have, however, is a large number of motorists, whom Khan sees as an easy cash cow.
All told, the Mayor’s plans amount to highway robbery to prop up an ailing Transport for London. But the communities with the fewest TfL services cannot be expected to shoulder the burden. Unless Sadiq Khan starts to make savings and look at Tube sponsorship and other creative ways to raise cash, his tax hikes will hammer families and cripple the capital’s economic recovery.
Article by Gareth Bacon MP first published by The Telegraph.