In the middle of the hottest and driest summer on record, Jason Perry, Chris Philp and south London Tories are opposing measures to address the climate crisis. By our environment correspondent, PAUL LUSHION
Jason Perry, Croydon’s part-time Mayor, has made his position very clear: even in the middle of a summer of record temperatures where parts of his borough have burned, he is putting his petty political party interests first ahead of the global climate crisis.
Tories across London have decided to oppose the proposed extension of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone – the ULEZ – not because of the dangers posed by global warming and the need to drastically cut emissions from road traffic, but simply because the proposal has been made by Sadiq Khan, London’s Labour Mayor.
In doing so, some of London’s Tory politicians, including Perry, Croydon MP Chris Philp and Assembly Member Neil “Father Jack” Garratt, have jumped on the populist bandwagon to oppose the tough measures presented by ULEZ expansion – and have positioned themselves against the policy position of their own Conservative ministers.
The Conservatives, especially Croydon Tories, have a rotten track record on the environment.
Boris Johnson (remember him?) made it one of his first acts when he became Mayor of London to roll-back the Congestion Charge extension area implemented in west London, just to save his wealthy chums in Kensington a few bob while they drove around the streets of the capital in their gas-guzzling sports cars and Chelsea tractors.
And Perry was a senior member of the Croydon Conservative group who in 2010 deliberately misled the borough’s voters by issuing election leaflets promising “no incinerator in Croydon”, when they knew very well the plans – which they’d helped to draft – were to build the toxic pollution-spewing Viridor plant at Beddington, just the other side of the borough boundary.
And once elected, Perry and his Tory mates – who all receive free car parking and exepenses on their travel costs for council business – voted through the scheme to save their Town Hall budgets some cash at the expense of the much-reduced quality of the air breathed by countless Croydon children for decades to come.
As a result of Perry and the Tories’ scheming, Croydon is paying Viridor £10million per year, every year, over the course of a 25-year contract to operate the polluting incinerator a short tram ride away at Beddington Lane.
And now, confronted with the climate crisis, Perry is hiding behind his stock-in-trade response, saying he is “listening” and that, “I have heard Croydon residents’ concerns about the proposed ULEZ expansion”.
Perry says this while presumably while cocking a deaf ‘un to all the serious and well-founded concerns raised about the planet’s climate emergency, which appears to be worsening at an accelerating pace while politicians dither over taking the necessary and tough decision to reduce emissions.
For Perry, Philp and Garratt are ignoring the concerns of respected scientists, and the statistics. Transport for London say that 4,000 Londoners died prematurely in 2019 because of the capital’s dirty air.
The Tories, who have been in power nationally for 12 years, are presiding over the worst cost of living crisis for generations. Their policies having caused huge deprivation and real poverty for millions, Perry, Philp and Garratt are now opposing ULEZ because it would increase vehicle costs… even though 45per cent of households in London do not own a vehicle.
If the proposals to extend ULEZ go through and are implemented from August 29 next year, then only the drivers of vehicles that meet certain minimum emission requirements will be permitted to use the roads across the capital without any charge. Owners of non-compliant, usually older, petrol-fuelled vehicles, will face a £12.50 daily charge to go out on the roads.
Perry calls this charge “extortionate” and wants the whole idea axed.
Of course, the consultation is the usual contrived structure you see from public bodies, where questions are skewed to get the answers the policy-makers need to justify their action. For instance, who would say that they don’t mind at all from dying a slow death from the effect of breathing polluting car fumes?
The reality is that the ULEZ extension is going to happen. Labour and the Conservatives want it to happen.
Mayor Khan wants the extension because “doing nothing is not an option for me”.
Khan says if the Tory government had its way, the congestion charge would have been extended across London with all paying to drive. However, in his consultation, Khan is himself pushing comprehensive road charging for every driver at some stage in the future.
Since the collapse of TfL revenues during the covid lockdown of 2020, Tory Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has made the bailout of Transport for London conditional on a number of conditions, including ” “the immediate reintroduction of the London Congestion Charge, LEZ and ULEZ and urgently bring forward proposals to widen the scope and levels of these charges, in accordance with the relevant legal powers and decision-making processes”.
But for Tory political pygmies in Croydon and Sutton, it’s about passing the blame and pretending the policy has nothing to do with them. Bottom line, it’s about deceit.
Garratt is the Sutton councillor with an unusual approach to enquiries from the people he is supposed to represent who was last year elected as the London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton. Garratt has been beside himself since posing a question to the London Mayor which saw Khan saying that the decision to implement the scheme is his.
Garratt, who used to work in IT but is not known for any qualifications in climate science, says that the gain is not worth the pain and says even the Mayor’s own reports don’t see much gain to health.
“The Mayor’s own reports show that expanding the ULEZ to the whole of London will reduce NO2 levels by just 1.5 per cent, and make little to no difference to particulate pollution or carbon emissions,” said Garratt.
“But it will cause great hardship, social isolation, and damage business across outer London, hitting hardest those least able to afford it.” Which given the 45per cent of Londoners who are non-car owners, seems to be a claim that is hard to reconcile with the facts.
Part-time Mayor Perry has written to Mayor Khan wanting his own government minister’s requirement for the ULEZ extension dropped.
Perry, the director of a local business who receives £81,894 in Mayoral salary, is himself wealthy enough that he can afford an electric car.
“After years of covid and now facing cost of living rises, many households with older cars won’t be able to afford the significant cost of buying a new more modern car.”
Perry writes that he “knows the benefits of encouraging the take-up of more sustainable vehicles” and that ” I agree that we must take steps to improve London’s air quality, however that should not come at the cost of hitting families and businesses already struggling to make ends meet”. That would be the families and businesses already struggling to make ends meet because of the Conservative-created cost of living crisis…
Perry worries about the impact on local businesses. Surrey shoppers, if their cars don’t pass muster, will likely avoid driving to Coulsdon, Purley or Croydon once placed inside the ULEZ. Putting the interests of business owners – like himself – ahead of the demands to deal with the global climate emergency, Perry wrote, “There is little doubt [ULEZ] will also hit local businesses as customers chose to stay home rather than face paying the £12.50 ULEZ charge for a trip to the shops”.
Since he sent his letter to Khan a month ago, Perry’s only response to questions of what he is going to do about Croydon’s air pollution and traffic issues is to talk vaguely of “incentivising greener cars”. For Perry, this is just about petty political party games, of pandering to his audience.
It is basically Mayor Perry fiddling over ULEZ while Croydon burns.
No wonder the politicians of national standing want the policy introduced London-wide.
But such politicking has left outer Londoners with a choice between 4,000 premature deaths a year and seeing the borough burn in future extremes of weather caused by climate change, or seeing those who depend on their old vehicles for work facing £12.50 daily charges.
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