The Conservatives have accused Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Assembly Members of giving the Mayor of London a blank cheque on the ULEZ Extension after they voted to amend the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, paving the way for the extension, before the results of the consultation has been published. Only the Conservative Group at City Hall voted against the move.
Over the summer, the Labour Mayor of London announced plans to extend the zone from the South circular to all of London from August 2023, meaning drivers of vehicles which are not compliant with the schemes requirements will face a daily charge of £12.50. Many are concerned that this does not give drivers and small businesses owners sufficient time to update vehicles ahead of the expansion, which is most likely to impact drivers on lower incomes. Critics of the plans have also cited that the policy does not include any practical measures to improve air quality.
Conservative-run Bromley Council has also stated its opposition to the move, arguing that the policy will have a disproportionate impact on the borough due the historic lack of public transport connections and the more rural nature of the borough. In July, Conservative Councillors moved a motion opposing the move which Labour Councillors voted against.
In September, a leaked report showed 66% of those who took part in the Mayor’s consultation were opposed to the plans. The Federation of Small Businesses has also called on the Mayor to “rethink” the proposals, claiming that their survey of businesses showed 88% of respondents being against the plans. Furthermore, a YouGov poll commissioned by the Conservative Group on the London Assembly showed 51% of respondents were opposed to the Mayor’s plans.
Despite the strong opposition and the official consultation outcome not being published, the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Assembly Members voted to amend the strategy and pave the way of the expansion to be introduced, with only the 9 member Conservative group voting against it. This has angered Beckenham’s Member of Parliament, Bob Stewart, who accused the Assembly of signing a blank cheque for expansion.
Bob Stewart said:
“I am really disappointed that Labour, Lib-Dem and Green of the London Assembly voted to give the Mayor a blank cheque to move ahead with this without giving any consideration to the consultation. This policy will hammer those on the lowest incomes who may rely on their vehicles, it will mean a huge expansion of the ANPR camera network, but it won’t help improve air quality because the Mayor has no plan for this. He isn’t speeding up plans for a cleaner bus fleet, he isn’t speeding up the roll out of greener infrastructure and he isn’t incentivising greener travel, instead he is taking £200 million and using it to expand the camera network instead of actual measures to improve air quality.”
London Assembly Member for Bexley & Bromley and Deputy Leader of the Conservatives Group at City Hall, Peter Fortune, said:
“Labour, Lib Dems and Greens at City Hall have told residents in Bexley and Bromley that their views don’t matter. They’ve rushed to vote through the ULEZ expansion before the publication of the consultation results with no thought of the financial damage it could do to thousands of residents. They’ve ignored charities, front-line workers and groups like the Federation of Small Businesses, all of whom have urged the Mayor to reconsider.
Leaked documents from TfL show Londoners are overwhelmingly opposed to this expansion which is why Conservatives urged the other parties to wait and see the results. Instead, they have rubberstamped Sadiq Khan's plans for the new ULEZ tax and opened the door for future pay-per-mile road user charging.
The job of Assembly Members at City Hall is to scrutinise the Mayor and protect hardworking Londoners. Sadly, Labour, Lib Dem and Green members have not done so here.”
Councillor Nicholas Bennett, Bromley Council’s Executive Member for Transport, Highways and Road Safety added:
“Bromley is, geographically, the largest London Borough, and contains many rural areas which have little public transport and where, unlike inner London, residents are dependent on their cars. We’re particularly concerned about the impact on the self-employed, small businesses which rely on their vehicles to conduct their trade and on elderly residents and others on fixed incomes already facing substantial increases in fuel costs.
Instead of trying to impose a one-size fits all approach from City Hall, the Mayor should have instead used this £200 million, which the expansion is expected to cost, for councils to run localised and targeted schemes for supporting people switch to greener, less polluting vehicles and other practical measures for reducing congestion and pollution.”