A report published by Fix Radio has revealed that plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London (ULEZ) will affect a quarter of construction businesses in Greater London. A further 23 percent of respondents say that rocketing costs will rule out taking their vans into the capital. Meanwhile, 21 percent of respondents say driving into cities in their vans is now impossible.
The ULEZ area extension will go live in August this year. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, gave the green light after a public consultation. The new charge will see motorists driving non-compliant vehicles pay a £12.50 charge to enter the zone.
According to City Hall, the effects of the existing ULEZ have led to a reduction in roadside pollution levels by 44 percent in Central London. Mr Kahn wants those living further from the centre of the city to experience similar reductions.
‘The 10 boroughs with the largest number of premature deaths per year [due to poor air quality] are all in Outer London,’ he said.
‘Bromley 204, Barnet 201, Croydon 196, Havering 178, Ealing 165, Enfield 164, Bexley 162, Hillingdon 155, Brent 149, Redbridge 142.’
However, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the last 18 months have seen the rising costs of parking and running a vehicle in the capital mean 80 percent of tradespeople have had to increase their prices. The expansion of the ULEZ will put extra pressure on operating costs, with little confidence that the scrappage fund designed to mitigate its effects will provide enough help and support to hard-pressed workers.
Under the terms of the scheme, applicants will be offered between £5000 and £9500 to scrap their existing vehicle and transition to a low-polluting alternative. It is open to businesses with up to 10 employees, sole traders and charities that operate in the 32 boroughs of London or the City of London. But critics say that the money on offer will not be anywhere near enough to meet the cost of a new vehicle.
The chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), Sue Robinson, said: ‘Whilst the NFDA supports and is encouraged by the London Mayor’s decision to provide a financial incentive towards exchanging ageing and non-compliant vehicles for newer, greener modes of transport, we are severely concerned that this will not be enough and the scheme will continue to have negative implications for a large proportion of motorists.’
‘The total budget allocated for the scrappage scheme will not be sufficient to make an impact the level at which the Mayor is expecting.’
The Workers Union Says…
Turning initiatives such as the ULEZ into a “workers versus the environment” debate can have a powerful attraction to opinion makers. But when the livelihoods of working people are at stake this temptation must be avoided at all costs.
So it’s time to think creatively and avoid accusations of intransigence and ignorance on both sides.
An increase in the scrappage fund would be a start, but there are other solutions, such as creating relationships with rental companies. This could mean ULEZ compliant vehicles were made available to workers at subsidised rates. Giving consideration to exceptions for businesses based on income is also an option, as are reduced parking rates.
In truth, there won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s time to show the people that kept building, fixing and installing during the pandemic that their contributions are worth more than a cursory debate.