Sadiq Khan has announced a major widening of the scrappage scheme for the expanding Ultra low emission zone (ULEZ), by opening it up to all Londoners with non-compliant cars.
The Labour mayor said the scheme will become more generous in several different ways – some of which will take effect immediately.
The changes, described by Khan as a “huge expansion”, are being introduced alongside the addition of £50m to the existing £110m fund, drawn from City Hall’s reserves.
The scrappage scheme, which provides drivers with grants to replace their vehicles with less polluting models, has until now only been open to Londoners in receipt of certain benefits, as well as businesses with fewer than 50 employees, and charities registered in the capital.
Khan has come under significant pressure in recent weeks from within his own party to “reflect” on his plan to expand the ULEZ into outer London – but he said he remained committed to the policy, due to be implemented on August 29.
“I have always said that expanding the ULEZ to the whole of London was a difficult decision, and not one I took lightly – but it’s a decision I remain committed to seeing through,” said the mayor.
“I’m not prepared to step back, delay or water down vital green policies like ULEZ, which will not only save lives and protect children’s lungs by cleaning up our polluted air, but help us to fight the climate crisis.
“I have continued to listen to the concerns of Londoners over recent months, and today I can announce a huge expansion to the scrappage scheme that means that all Londoners with non Ulez-compliant cars will now be able to get financial support to switch to greener, less polluting vehicles.”
The alterations to the scheme are being made in two stages, with the first stage coming into force on Friday:
- Grants awarded to small businesses and charities with a non-compliant van will increase from £5,000 to £7,000
- Grants for wheelchair accessible vehicles will increase from £5,000 to £10,000
- Grants for scrapping minibuses will increase from £7,000 to £9,000
- Grants to replace a non-compliant van with an electric van will increase from £7,500 to £9,500
- Grants to replace a non-compliant minibus with an electric minibus will increase from £9,500 to £11,500
- Retrofit grants will increase from £5k to £6k, typically enough to cover the whole cost of retrofitting
Then on Monday, August 21:
- Every Londoner with a non Ulez-compliant car or motorcycle will be eligible for a £2,000 grant (or £1,000 for a motorcycle), or a higher value package of up to two bus and tram passes plus a lower grant (no change to the payment level)
- Small businesses and sole traders will be able to scrap as many as three vans (up from one)
As of July 23, some 10,562 applications had been made to the scrappage scheme, with some £38.5m allocated to date. With the £50m addition to the scheme now having been made, around £120m is therefore thought to still be available.
The changes come after Khan said he would “carry on listening” to Londoners’ concerns about the ULEZ, following Labour’s failure to win the Uxbridge & South Ruislip by-election in July.
The Conservatives, who succeeded in holding the west London seat, focused their campaign around opposition to the ULEZ expansion, telling voters that they can “send a clear message to Sadiq Khan” by voting Tory.
The result caused senior figures in Khan’s party to express concern over the expansion plan, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urging the mayor to “reflect” on the policy.
Five Conservative councils, including Bexley and Bromley, also brought an unsuccessful court challenge to the scheme.
Commenting on the latest changes to the scrappage scheme, Susan Hall – Conservative candidate for mayor in 2024 – said: “This is too little, too late from Sadiq Khan, who is facing mounting pressure from Londoners and his own party.
“Thousands of families, small businesses and charities face financial ruin because of Sadiq Khan’s Ulez expansion, which will do next to nothing to improve air quality.
“If I am elected mayor, I will reverse this disastrous policy and replace it with a £50m fund to reduce air pollution without taxing people.”
According to City Hall, since its launch in 2019, the ULEZ has helped to reduce levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide by 46 per cent in central London and by more than 20 per cent in inner London. Particulate matter levels have also continued to reduce across London, City Hall said, with a 41 per cent reduction in central and inner London since 2017.
Transport for London maintains that nine out of ten cars seen driving in outer London on an average day are already ULEZ-compliant and will not have to pay the charge.
The ULEZ requires all non-compliant vehicle drivers to pay a daily charge of £12.50.
Noah Vickers is the Local Democracy Reporter for City Hall, based at the Evening Standard. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a BBC-funded scheme to help boost coverage of councils in the local media.