Bexley and Bromley councils are to challenge Sadiq Khan’s expansion of the ultra-low emissions zone in the courts, they announced last night.
The two Conservative councils claim that the London mayor did not consult properly and appeared to have already made his mind up to introduce the expanded scheme, which is due to take effect from August 29.
They also say the mayor did not consider how many people in outer London would be paying to use their vehicles, and that Khan did not consult on his scrappage scheme.
Drivers whose vehicles do not meet modern pollution standards already have to pay £12.50 to cross the North and South Circular roads when heading into London. Parts of Greenwich and Lewisham are already covered by the scheme, but all of SE London will be inside the zone from the summer.
Bexley and Bromley have joined forces with Harrow and Hillingdon councils in northwest London as well as Surrey County Council to bring a judicial review of Khan’s plans.
City Hall has said that expanding Ulez to the North and South Circular has taken 63 per cent of the most polluting vehicles off the roads, with emissions cut by 46 per cent. Khan says that more action is needed with 4,000 Londoners dying each year because of the effects of air pollution.
But the councils have challenged the pollution studies, with both Bexley and Bromley claiming that charging drivers is not needed to bring toxic air in their boroughs under control.
Bexley Council leader Baroness O’Neill said: “We have been clear from the start that we believe air quality is important but that ULEZ is the wrong solution. By wanting to expand ULEZ to outer London boroughs it appears that the mayor’s message is you can pollute as long as you can afford the £12.50.
“We believe he should give the monies that he has allocated to ULEZ to the boroughs who actually understand outer London and the transport connectivity problems our residents face to come up with innovative solutions that will deliver better, more practical results.
“We are also very concerned about the mental wellbeing of our residents who we know are already anxious about the installation of ULEZ and the very real prospect that they won’t be able to use their cars to get to work, visit relatives and friends, shop or attend health appointments.
“We are standing up for our residents who have given us a clear message of what they think of his plan.”
In a written statement, Colin Smith, Bromley’s leader, said the expanded ULEZ was an “attempted tax raid on the outer ‘London’ [sic] suburbs”.
“In Bromley, this socially regressive tax directly threatens jobs, the viability and availability of small businesses, and causing significant damage to vital care networks, as well as creating a completely avoidable spike in the cost of living locally, at a time when some households are already struggling to make ends meet.
“To attempt to do all of this under cover of a false health scare over air quality, when the mayor’s own research confirms that Bromley has the second cleanest air in London, also, that extending ULEZ to the boundaries of the M25 will make no discernible difference to air quality locally, is frankly unforgivable.”
ULEZ is not being expanded to the M25, most of which runs through the counties surrounding London through areas far from the mayor’s control. Instead it is being expanded to the borders of Greater London, which does reach the M25 at a handful of points.
Smith added: “The upset, pain and anxiety this has caused locally is immense, which is why, even at this late stage, I once again call on the mayor to withdraw this spiteful proposal.”
Khan has come under pressure from 11 outer London boroughs to either scrap or delay the scheme, with some refusing to allow TfL to install ULEZ signage and equipment on their roads.
Some Labour councils and MPs have voiced worries about the quick implementation of Ulez. Abena Oppong-Asare, the Erith & Thamesmead MP, told LBC this week that she had raised the issue with the mayor, saying: “My concern is we don’t want to be in a situation where people are going to be worse off.”
MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis has also voiced concerns about the timing, telling Khan at an event this month that “the timing is pretty tough to do it this year amongst a cost-of-living crisis”.
The Unite union weighed in yesterday, branding the scheme “anti-worker” because of its effects on workers at Heathrow airport, many of which come in by car from surrounding counties.
While there is a £110 million scrappage scheme in place, it will not cover everybody who needs to upgrade their vehicle. It also does not cover people who live outside Greater London – a factor criticised by Kent County Council.
Khan has called on the government to provide funding to boost the scrappage scheme, as it has done in other English cities.
A City Hall spokesperson told the BBC last night: “We will be defending any challenge to this vital scheme.
“The mayor urges the councils involved to abandon this costly and unnecessary legal challenge and instead focus on the health of those they represent.”
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