The hypocrisy of ULEZ-backing Hounslow council is appalling
Updated: Mar 22
The consequences of Sadiq Khan’s disastrous ULEZ expansion are slowly dawning on out-of-touch Labour politicians. Whilst some outer London councils, like Bromley, Bexley, Harrow and Hillingdon, are standing up for their residents by launching a Judicial Review to challenge the unfair scheme in the courts, other, Labour-run councils are looking out for themselves.
In an act of almost unparalleled hypocrisy, ULEZ supporting Hounslow has asked for its fleet of vehicles to be exempted from paying the charge. This request was made on the basis that the council couldn’t possibly afford to replace its vehicles with compliant models in time.
And yet they still expect their residents and businesses to fork out up to £4,500 a year in charges, or thousands more on new vehicles. With bills and costs rising and only a few months notice, it’s an utterly tone-deaf move for the council to call in a favour from the Mayor while wishing their voters nothing more than the best of luck. How are hard working tradespeople – already facing severe cost pressures – supposed to make their books add up when a London council can’t? How are people in outer London, poorly served by public transport, and living in areas with no real air pollution problem, supposed to adjust?
But rather than answer these genuine concerns about the ULEZ expansion, Sadiq Khan has turned to smear tactics. He used a People’s Question Time event last week to accuse outer Londoners opposed to his plans of being in bed with the far right, covid deniers, and vaccine deniers. In a revealing addition, the Mayor also included the “Tories” in this list of extreme groups.
Because that’s what this charge is about - targeting Conservative-voting outer London boroughs that he thinks he can ignore with a road tax to bankroll his failing administration. With little democratic accountability – no MP or councillor in London can vote the charge down – the Mayor is acting like a little Caesar. He's targeting outer London with taxes to pay for his mismanagement of Transport for London and fund his programmes in Labour areas.
A 2019 report from the London Assembly revealed the sheer disparity in mayoral capital spending across the city in Khan’s first years in office. Conservative-voting Bromley and Bexley were the second and third lowest, receiving less than £100 million. In comparison, Labour-voting Newham received £2.1 billion, Tower Hamlets – then Labour controlled – £865 million, and Southwark more than £700 million.
And while the Mayor spent freely on Labour areas, he lost London vast sums through an unwise fares freeze, Crossrail delays, and City Hall waste. It’s no wonder he’s planning a cash grab to pay for it all. The city coffers are already raking in millions of pounds from his previous ULEZ expansion to the North and South Circular roads. Now he’s planning to raise over £300 million by expanding it to places like my constituency of Orpington, where there’s relatively little public transport provision, and people have little choice but to drive.
Khan’s advisors have reportedly realised that there’s a problem here. But they’re offering little to address the issue. While my constituents would welcome improved bus services, it is naive to think it will end car reliance in suburbs and rural villages. Nor will it persuade people living amongst the greenery of outer London that this charge is really about air quality, not cash.
What the Labour Party needs to wake up to in places like Hounslow is how this charge will hurt the working people they claim to represent. The ULEZ expansion will hurt ordinary Londoners who can’t afford to buy a new vehicle or pay £12.50 a day to get around. If only more London Labour MPs and councils had the guts to stand up for their poorest residents who will be caught in the Mayor's highway robbery.
Article by Gareth Bacon MP first published by The Daily Telegraph.