The outrageous charade behind Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ plan
Outer Londoners aren’t buying Sadiq Khan’s lazy and misleading attempt to justify the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London. No one living in one of the capital’s outer suburbs or rural villages seriously thinks air pollution in their green patch is as bad as it is in central London, or that it needs the same solutions. The Mayor’s attempts to persuade them otherwise are embarrassing him.
Mayor Khan fails to understand that the four boroughs leading the charge against ULEZ expansion — Bromley, Bexley, Harrow and Hillingdon — are nothing like Zone 1. Take my constituency of Orpington within the London Borough of Bromley. It is a collection of Kentish towns and villages with farmers’ fields and country lanes. It’s where people rely on their cars and don’t have access to London’s Tube network. Another world to Labour’s Islington or Camden.
Yet the Mayor is attempting to shame these boroughs into believing they face worse problems with air pollution than the capital’s centre. He points to figures of premature deaths allegedly linked to air pollution in an Imperial College London report. But he ignores the fact that Bromley tops the table because it has an older population, not because air pollution in the leafy borough is worse. In peddling this nonsense, the Mayor is also turning a blind eye to the findings within his own impact assessment ahead of ULEZ expansion. It found that the road tax would have little or negligible impact on air quality, but drag in hundreds of thousands of new payers. Mayor Khan is eager to link his road tax to air pollution because he doesn’t want to admit the real reason for ULEZ expansion: it’s a cash grab. Sadiq Khan’s mayoral administration is broke. He lost Transport for London at least £640 million through an unaffordable fares freeze, failed to deliver Crossrail on time, costing billions of pounds in bailouts, and nearly doubled the size of bureaucracy at City Hall. Expanding a £12.50 daily charge on boroughs with poor access to public transport, where people rely on their cars, will rake in £300 million in its first year. The coffers also stand to gain from fining unaware Londoners £180 every time they fail to pay — potentially raising millions more. Advertisement A one-size fits all solution like ULEZ expansion is a sledgehammer that will hurt working people and businesses when few can afford it. Over 80 per cent of the households within my constituency have cars. Across outer London, more than half of households earning as little as £10,000 own a car. Without access to the Tube, fewer buses, and poor orbital public transport routes, the majority of people rely on their cars to get to work and the shops, or to visit family and friends.
Faced with such a huge driving bill when other bills are going up, it’s no surprise that Khan’s air quality excuses aren’t convincing my constituents. Sat in a rural village like Pratt’s Bottom or Biggin Hill, looking out on green fields, the idea that you should pay a road charge designed for central London is ludicrous. Make no mistake — the local authorities fighting against ULEZ expansion are facing an uphill struggle. They don’t have the Mayor’s resources or press team. But they do have the support of many residents and should keep going regarding Labour’s mudslinging. People want cleaner air — but they’re not fools. Outer Londoners can see highway robbery for what it is, no matter how the Mayor attempts to spin it.
Article by Gareth Bacon MP first published by The Daily Telegraph.