London mayor Sadiq Khan has accused government ministers of “weaponising air pollution and climate change” alleging that they are not endorsing the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez), The Guardian reported.
As the Ulez expansion is set to encompass all London boroughs, Khan has expressed his dissatisfaction with the lack of financial backing from the government for this initiative.
He pointed out that other cities like Bristol, Birmingham, and Portsmouth have received government support for their clean air zones and scrappage schemes, questioning why London has not received similar support.
Khan emphasised that the absence of government backing for London’s efforts to combat air pollution and climate change is disappointing and suggests that the government might be exploiting these issues for their own purposes.
The Ulez expansion, scheduled for Tuesday (29), is slated to become the largest pollution charging area globally.
Vehicles not meeting minimum emission standards that enter this zone will face a daily fee of £12.50 or a £180 fine, which can be reduced to £90 if paid within two weeks.
Transport for London (TfL) has introduced a £160 million scheme that allows residents, small businesses, sole traders, and charities to claim grants when scrapping non-compliant vehicles.
Responding to Khan’s allegations, a government spokesperson noted that both transport and air quality fall under London’s jurisdiction, making them the direct responsibility of the mayor.
The government has provided substantial financial support to TfL to maintain public transport operations and address air pollution issues.
Critics of the Ulez expansion contend that it is primarily a revenue-generation tactic for TfL and criticize Khan for implementing it during a period of economic strain.
Khan, however, maintains that the evidence of the negative impact of air pollution is clear, particularly when meeting with bereaved families or witnessing the consequences in healthcare settings. He also finds hope in the potential of such policies to improve lives.
Opposition to the Ulez expansion contributed to Labour’s failure to secure the Uxbridge and South Ruislip parliamentary seat in a recent byelection.
Although the government considered using legal measures to halt the expansion, this plan was abandoned due to the likelihood of legal challenges.
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, acknowledged the legal obligation for Khan to enhance air quality but recognised the difficult position this placed him in.
A spokesperson from the Conservative party criticized Khan for burdening hardworking individuals with the Ulez tax, asserting that it leaves a financial gap in TfL’s budget.
The spokesperson argued that the Ulez expansion is unnecessary and urged Khan and the Labour party to reconsider it.
Instances of vandalism against enforcement cameras in newly included Ulez areas have occurred in recent months, with vigilantes cutting camera wires or removing the devices.
To meet Ulez standards, petrol cars generally need to be registered after 2005, while many diesel cars registered after September 2015 are exempt from the charge.