Environment correspondent PAUL LUSHION on the cynical games being played with people’s lives by some of the capital’s third-rate politicians
Ruth Dombey, the leader of LibDem-controlled Sutton, today declared war on ULEZ, warning Mayor of London Sadiq Khan that she will not be signing any agreement with Transport for London for the extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone to outer London.
Not that it matters very much: TfL has the power to implement the zone, with or without Dombey and Sutton’s permission.
Pro-pollution Dombey has single-handedly done more than anyone to turn the air in south London toxic with her unwavering support for the Viridor waste incinerator at Beddington, for which her council provided planning permission under highly questionable circumstances.
But today she has doubled down on her opposition to the Mayor of London’s ULEZ extension, which seeks to reduce air pollution by forcing older, more polluting vehicles off the capital’s roads.
In doing so, Dombey has added her voice to a handful of outer London Conservative boroughs, including Croydon, who have warned Mayor Khan that they will refuse to allow the installation of ULEZ cameras. Some councils are considering using tens of thousands of pounds of public money to try to challenge Mayor Khan over ULEZ in the courts.
The Tories, who have lost two London Mayoral elections to Labour’s Khan, have been accused of staging a cheap populist stunt to win a few votes when they know that they do not have the powers to block the installation of ULEZ equipment and signage.
And they will also be very well aware that the expansion of ULEZ is among the conditions imposed on Transport for London as part of their post-covid financial settlement with the Conservative government, ordered by minister Grant Shapps.
Dombey’s posturing has also been dismissed as cynical: her Liberal Democrat party colleagues at City Hall voted in favour of ULEZ expansion.
ULEZ currently covers inner London, in the area encircled by the North and South Circular roads. From August 29, ULEZ will be extended to most of Greater London, including Croydon, Sutton and Bromley.
Anyone driving a non-compliant vehicle in the capital after that date will be subject to a £12.50 daily charge.
Mayor Khan has made £110million available in a scrappage scheme to provide low-income Londoners with a grant of up to £2,000 to replace polluting vehicles.
It is estimated that 80per cent of Croydon vehicle owners already have compliant vehicles, and so will not be subject to any charge.
In Sutton, according to Dombey, 70per cent of vehicles in the borough would not be subject to any ULEZ charge.
In Croydon, around 200 people per year die prematurely from health problems attributed to toxic air pollution. Across London, that figure is roughly 4,000, with the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in London’s outer boroughs, where there has been no regulation of vehicle use, as there has been with first the Congestion Charge Zone and then ULEZ over the course of the last 20 years.
On Wednesday, Jason Perry, Croydon’s pro-pollution Tory Mayor, put forward a motion at a council meeting opposing ULEZ, which was defeated by a clean-air coalition of Labour, Green and a LibDem councillor.
In December, Dombey wrote to Mayor Khan outlining her concerns for Sutton. “The poor public transport in Sutton, the limited scrappage scheme being offered, and the current cost of living crisis mean that too many will be disproportionately affected by the charge,” she said then.
And this morning, Dombey joined the Conservative chorus against ULEZ when tweeting, “Position of Sutton Council on ULEZ hasn’t changed.
“We will not be signing the Section 8 agreement with TfL. If the Mayor wants to push ahead with ULEZ then he needs to improve public transport in Sutton, delay the start date and make the scrappage scheme fairer.”
However, TfL’s “reserve powers” enable it to install two-thirds of the necessary 2,750 CCTV cameras for the scheme without council permission.
Documents on the ULEZ expansion state: “Section 8 agreement with the highway authority is not required as TfL is acting in its statutory capacity as traffic authority for the signals and road.”
Meanwhile, Tory-run Surrey County Council appears to want any of their residents who drive a non-compliant vehicle to get stung with the £12.50 daily fine: Surrey say that they won’t allow any ULEZ warning signs to be fixed to lamp posts and street furniture in their area, with the county council’s leader, Tim Oliver, claiming that there had been “no dialogue at all” with City Hall.
In fact, there was a consultation on ULEZ held in 2022, with Surrey councils including Elmbridge, Tandridge and Spelthorne, all submitting responses as part of a dialogue.
Read more: Ignore ULEZ scare stories – it will reduce traffic and save lives
Read more: Part-time Perry is fiddling over ULEZ while Croydon burns
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Dombey also doesn’t mind pollution from the Beddington incinerator blowing all over Croydon. She gives LibDems a bad name, no mean feat
Ruth likes decrepit, horrid old bangers – being one herself.
Pollution-deniers, anti-vaxers, brexit supporters – all out of the same mad bag.
LibDems standing with the Conservatives instead of standing up for residents’ health