ULEZ Expansion

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 2nd August 2022.

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Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

Answering solely on the financial impact of the proposed ULEZ expansion and not on air quality, and understanding you are seeking external funding to support a scrappage scheme you intend to implement, what financial support does City Hall, under your direction, propose to help vulnerable groups such as the disabled, charities, small businesses, many key workers and the elderly?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I have made it clear that I want to offer the largest scrappage scheme feasible if I take forward the proposal for a London-wide Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) following the public consultation. The future scrappage scheme will be informed by the Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) and responses to the consultation, but the number of Londoners we can help depends on funding and at present I simply cannot say how much money will be available.

The Government has provided scrappage funding in other cities, including Birmingham, Manchester and Portsmouth, but has not extended the same support for London. We are using our own resources to do a job that should be led by central Government through a targeted national scrappage scheme. If a national scheme is not forthcoming, I have requested specific funding from the Government for a local London scheme. Should this not be made available, we will need to understand what other funding mechanisms may be viable. Londoners will know that when I say I will provide the largest scrappage scheme possible, I mean it. When the Government failed to provide a single penny for scrappage in London for previous iterations of the ULEZ, working to achieve aims on air quality the Government claims to share, I stepped up and provided £61 million for a scrappage scheme.

It is important to me that any scrappage scheme is targeted at those who really need it to make the most of the funding pot. Our previous scrappage schemes supported low-income [Londoners], disabled Londoners, small businesses and charities to scrap over 15,200 older, more polluting vehicles. Already, more than 84% of vehicles seen driving in outer London meet the ULEZ standards, meaning the vast majority of drivers would not need to pay anything should the expansion be confirmed. The proposals in the consultation also include extensions to grace periods, including for those with disabled tax-classed vehicles. This will help many disabled Londoners as they will no longer have to comply.

I am listening carefully to the public and stakeholders on whether more can be done to support vulnerable people while maintaining the integrity of the scheme. I have committed to providing the largest scheme feasible and will continue to work with the Government and the other metro mayors to push for a consistent national approach to scrappage that allows us and the Government to meet air quality targets and deliver cleaner air for London and the UK as a whole.

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

Thank you very much for that answer and thank you for sticking to the financial side of it as well. That is appreciated.

We are getting to a head now with the consultation around the expanded ULEZ and it is causing a lot of concern in outer London. It really is, especially for those people, as Assembly Member Bokhari was talking about earlier, who are digitally excluded and so they have not been able to take part in some of the processes.

Let us say the Government does not come forward with any financial assistance for a scrappage scheme. You have said you will commit to the largest scheme that you can put in place that is feasible. Do you have any ballpark figures for that?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

No, I could not today for a variety of reasons, anyway. If the Government hears me saying, “We have X pounds ‑‑

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

I get that. I guess what people would be concerned about is the idea of the tide going out so that there is the largest that is feasible, as you say, to put in but it is not enough to cover some of those people who are really going to need the support.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I understand that concern, by the way. What I want to say is - and I say this, hopefully, not in a polemic way and so, hopefully, there will not be a lot of noise coming from that side of the room - judge me on my record. Last time there was no money from the Government. We found £61 million, which supported the categories I mentioned: poorer Londoners, disabled Londoners, small businesses and charities. It is not possible to extend a scheme like we want to do without a scrappage scheme for the reasons that you have talked about in relation to the concern your constituents have.

I cannot give you a figure. We are still hopeful. The Government has similar ends to us in relation to zero carbon. I appreciate there may be differences in means. That is why we are hoping there will be a change of leadership and a new Transport Secretary and a new Chancellor. It is not all doom and gloom in relation to us getting progress with the new lot that come in.

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

We touched on the consultation. Do you have any idea what the consultation response rate is at the moment? What is it looking like?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

No, I have not seen it for weeks. I have been busy with other things. It closes at the end of this month and so ‑‑

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

Yes, 29 July [2022] it closes. One of the things that I would be interested in looking at is how we audit those responses as well and wherever those responses come from. Can we break out where they have come from across the country?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

This is not TfL’s first rodeo in relation to consultations. There is a lot of technical expertise involved. I am not going to pretend I am on top of it. I am more than happy for TfL to meet with the Member and again, I suggest, with Deputy Mayor [for Transport] Seb Dance and anybody who is interested to talk through how they have done things in the past. I suspect they will be more than happy to meet with you and to address and alleviate any concerns you might have.

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

The technical point is interesting because we had the new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of TfL in last week, who talked about the significant recruitment process going on in terms of getting technicians in to look at road user charging. Are you aware of that?

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

Yes, sorry, you are right. Patrick [Doig].

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

He would be appalled if he were called the CFO. He is doing a great job, by the way, as the Interim CFO. What is happening is it is part of the consultation. The ultimate prize is to get rid of the Congestion Charge and to get rid of the ULEZ and have a really simple system in relation to a smart road user charging scheme that we have talked about in the past. We have asked people to respond to this idea in the consultation. I am sure you have seen the document in the consultation.

We have asked TfL to start doing some work in relation to this because nobody in the world had tried the Congestion Charge before we brought it in. Nobody in the world had tried the ULEZ. A lot of it is doing the work in advance to see whether it is possible. You will remember that we spoke probably two years ago about, for example, a Greater London boundary charge and some work was done, which then could not be used because we chose not to go down that road. Similarly, we did some work in relation to a carbon charge where everyone pays X pence to use their car, which was discounted earlier on this year. It is not unusual for TfL to do pieces of work that do not necessitate anything in particular, but I am interested in ‑‑

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

It does make sense to look at it. It makes sense to look at it on a national level because there are taxation elements that go with it.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes. There are some good ‑‑

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

Again, just to put in, everybody is moving in the same direction, which is to get the cleanest air possible. What is the process? What is the vehicle, if you will excuse the pun, that you use to do that? When you look at some of the research papers or where road user charging has been rolled out elsewhere, you will see that you get to a tax-neutral position. For example, if you had a road user charging model in London, Londoners might expect not to be paying that fuel duty tax, vehicle excise duty and so on. That is one of the challenges with bringing in a road user model unilaterally.

This is the last point. The significant members of staff coming in are already being recruited to look at the technical aspects of road user charging. As I understand it, the model that they are looking at can only be built off the back of an expanded camera network, which we are consulting on because we have not agreed on it. If the consultation comes back that people in London are overwhelmingly negative towards it, (a) are you in a position to say we are not going to move ahead with that and (b) if you do not move ahead with it, how do you get to the road user charging position anyway?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

There are a number of issues raised there. When I was in Government, in transport, in 2009, we looked into the issue of smart road user charging because it is attractive to the Treasury for the obvious reasons that you mentioned, particularly as more vehicles go electric and there is less money coming in through the usual way to the Treasury. I am not sure it is revenue-neutral, by the way, in relation to that.

However, the point that you make is important because of road tax. With respect, the way I would frame it is London drivers are paying a road tax and they do not get the benefits of the road tax because all of it is spent out of the city except for a small minority. On top of that, they could be required to pay smart road user charging, as well as a road tax.

What should happen, in my view, is the road tax goes for Londoners or we get back the money Londoners pay. Otherwise, London motorists are subsidising motorists outside of the city and paying a smart road user charge.

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

That is what I meant by neutral.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes. That is the concern. We are having a conversation with the Government on this. The good news is I know there are at least 320 people running to be the next Tory leader, but one of them in the final two is talking about this. Watch this space in relation to evolution of thought in this area.

Photo of Peter Fortune Peter Fortune Conservative

I am really sorry. I have overrun my time. Thank you.