Why Stop Ulez? What Is The Alternative?
Updated: Mar 22
You may have seen my petition to stop the proposed ULEZ expansion. I launched it following the news that Mayor Khan is seeking to expand the Ultra Low Emissions Zone to the whole of London, including Romford.
I’m all for clean air and I think we need to take action, but I believe ULEZ is the wrong tool for achieving this.
ULEZ’s most recent expansion was up to the North Circular. It was estimated to cost £130m* to set up, and each new camera costing taxpayers between £10-15k. There are now 1400 cameras enforcing the charge, in what is a relatively small geographical area.
Taking UELZ to the whole of London won’t just require a camera on every road in to the M25, but also major roads all across the city, as drivers will be charged the tax for a journey of any distance.
We can confidently say that it’s going to cost multiples of the previous cost, and a vast amount of disruption to install thousands of new cameras across London.
This huge expenditure comes at a time when Khan repeatedly goes cap-in-hand to the government for more taxpayers money to bail out TFL. This increased spending comes at a time when the Mayor has raised his share of our Council Tax by 8% and fares by 4.8% whilst increasing TFL wages by 8%.
The Mayor is tax tax tax, spend spend spend.
The stated goal of ULEZ is to reduce the harmful greenhouse emissions from cars. That’s a worthy cause and one I can get behind. Pollution stinks and it’s killing people. So why do I think ULEZ is pointless?
For your car to be compliant and you to avoid the tax it must fall under what’s called Euro 6 standards, for Diesel, or Euro 4 for Petrol. This standard is a measure of the emissions your car chucks out. Euro 4 was introduced in January 2005, so all petrol cars since then are compliant. Euro 6 was introduced in 2014. So diesel cars since then would be compliant.
Now I get what the UELZ supporters say, “most cars are compliant anyway”. Let’s talk about that. The average age of a car in the UK is 8 years old. It’s now 2022, 8 years since Euro 6 was introduced. Next year even more cars will naturally reach the end of their life and be changed, and the year after.
ULEZ or no ULEZ, emissions would drop. There is no need to spend millions of taxpayer's money.
Khan can take all the credit he wants for cleaning up London’s air. But the real credit needs to go to the car makers who are producing cleaner cars. It isn’t Khan and ULEZ that are cleaning up London’s air.
So what about those who do not have a compliant car? These are the people I worry for the most.
Around 20% of Londoners do not have a ULEZ compliant car. But these people are not the wealthy. Those forking out for a new car, or a newer second-hand car, will be compliant. It is those who can’t afford to change that are being caught out. The small businesses, the low-wage earners, the care workers.
Khan has a plan for this, a scrappage scheme. Sounds good, right? Khan says he’ll give Londoners £2k to scrap their car and get a complaint one. Note the word ‘scrap’ and not ‘sell’.
So, if your car isn’t compliant then he can send it to the great scrapyard in the sky and write you a cheque. Scrapping 20% of all cars in London… sounds eco, not.
And what can you get for £2k? Well go look for yourself, the second-hand car market is through the roof right now and £2k won’t get you anything. Not to mention a van or minibus needed for running a business.
Still, £2k is better than nothing? Well if you can get your hands on it then sure. However Khan’s scrappage scheme ran out of money in the last expansion, after spending £61m!**
How many non-compliant cars where changed? Well the Mayor’s own figures state it as 17%. Not 17% of all cars, 17% of non-compliant cars.
So £61m and he only replaced 17% of the ‘problem’ cars. At this rate it would take £358m to replace all non-compliant cars on the mayor’s scrappage scheme, in the existing expansion.
Now imagine the cost of this across the whole of London.
OK, I don’t like politicians who complain and offer no alternatives. So what are mine? After all, I complain about congestion and pollution.
First, I think we need to make public-transport more attractive. This looks like lower-fares and quicker, more comfortable, journeys. I think automating the trains is the first step.
Automation will be expensive, perhaps more so than ULEZ, but it’s more effective. It means less salaries, no wage rises, fewer strikes and it means that the trains can be adjusted to run according to demand.
Yes, the tube is very old and automation brings challenges, but Paris has managed to automate it’s oldest line. Let’s also not forget, we’re just about to see an entirely new line open. Surely the Elizabeth Line is easily automated?
London is becoming an increasingly cycling friendly city. Yes, we need to do more, but we’re on the way. There is a government scheme that subsidises the purchase of a bike for those cycling to work. But if the mayor is going to spend these millions why not create a scheme of subsidised bikes for Londoner’s? Let’s get more people cycling for short journeys.
The scrappage scheme isn’t a bad idea, but it’s too little to have an impact. Instead of spending hundreds of millions on cameras to tax people, why not increase the amount available to encourage more people to change their car over?
How about instead of forcing them scrap it, you allow them to trade it in to a dealer and use the £2k as a discount on a car. That way drivers get the value of their car +£2k. That makes changing a car much more financially viable.
I have a car that is valued at £1300. I couldn’t replace it with a compliant one for £2k. But if a dealer was to give me £1300 for it, as well as the mayor giving me £2k, then I’d have £3300 to spend and that’s much more realistic.
Pollution can be drawn out of the air and stored.
The UK’s largest carbon capture facility was opened in Cheshire at a cost of £26m to Tata Chemicals. It removes the equivalent of 22,000 cars worth of CO2 out of the air every year.
ULEZ expansion is cheered as causing 10,000 cars to be changed. And that has cost close to £200m in both cost and grants.
Insurance companies have caught on to the idea that people will change their lifestyle for rewards, giving discount cinema tickets for those who go to the gym or walk a certain number of steps.
TFL could run similar. What if taking a bus awarded you points, if walking to the shops gained you more? What if these points could be used to get a travel card?
I believe we reward and encourage people to change their lifestyle, not tax them and punish them in to doing so.
Send Khan a message
The ULEZ tax hits the poorest hardest, is ineffective and costs Londoners too much. It’s time to stand up to it, and Khan.
If you sign my petition, I’ll email you when the official consultation opens and let you know how to log an official objection instead of us all just shouting in to the wind.
We can also send Khan a message on May 5th. At the local elections you will have a chance to ensure Havering stays Conservative. We’re the last Conservative Borough this side of London, a thorn in Khan’s side. Let’s keep it that way!
You’ll have 3 votes on May 5th. Use them for your local Conservative candidates.