Press Release: ULEZ – A Tax to Fill the Mayor’s TFL Budget Black Hole

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced on the 8th April in the central London zone. Non-compliant car owners will have to pay £12.50 per day in addition to the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) of £11.50. Penalties for not paying are severe. Vans and HGV vehicle drivers will pay even more and even owners of older motorcycles have to pay even though their emissions are very low.

There are numerous anomalies in this tax which will particularly affect those who drive older cars who are typically the poorer members of the community. Those who drive very expensive modern supercars or luxury vehicles with large engines will not be paying even though the emissions from them are high.

Those who bought diesel vehicles only a few years ago, encouraged by the Government because of their lower CO2   emissions, will now find they are paying this tax or will have to buy a new vehicle.

In reality the ULEZ is a tax designed to bolster the Mayor of London’s income to fix his mismanagement of the Transport for London budget. The tax could take over £1 billion per year out of the London economy and yet it is unlikely to significantly improve the air quality in London.

Mayor Sadiq Khan claims there is a public health crisis from air pollution in London so as to justify these new taxes but that is simply not true. He is even using ill-informed children to promote his claims.

In 2021 this tax will be extended to everywhere within the North/South Circular which will affect millions of car owners in London. The Alliance of British Drivers has been opposing the ULEZ scheme since it was announced. But the public is only now waking up to the ULEZ and other aspects of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. The ABD has opposed similar schemes in Birmingham, Bath and elsewhere. Some have already been reconsidered due to local opposition, but the Mayor of London is not listening.

ABD Campaign Director Roger Lawson had this to say: “The Mayor is dressing up this new tax as a way to improve our health when it will not. It’s blatant misleading of the public by a Mayor good at rhetoric but bad at actually managing the capital’s finances. The Mayor has manufactured a false emergency so he can say that he is taking urgent and bold action to “save” people from it.

Notes:

To check whether your vehicle is compliant go here: https://tinyurl.com/ya4usuqr

For more information see this page of the ABD’s web site covering our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the ULEZ, the financial facts and spurious environmental claims: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm

Mayor Lies at the People’s Question Time in Bexley

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the 14th March there was a “People’s Question Time” in Bexley where Mayor Sadiq Khan answered questions from the public (photo left).

It commenced by the Mayor suggesting that London’s roads were unsafe because he had no control over road safety in response to a question on junction improvement. He claimed that 95% of the roads are controlled by local boroughs, suggesting it was their fault. But in reality, the Mayor via TfL controls almost all the money spent on roads and road safety. TfL dictates what projects local boroughs can spend on by only funding what they like. In addition they dictate transport strategy directly. As a result, boroughs are forced to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on 20 mph wide area speed limits that have been proven to be totally ineffective, on cycle lanes, speed hump schemes and other pointless measures.

The Mayor was also criticised for spending £400 million on the proposed Rotherhithe cycle/pedestrian bridge, and when it came to policing there was applause from the audience when one person suggested he could solve the crime problem overnight by just diverting money spent on cycle lanes to the police.

When discussing public transport the Mayor said that London is the only city in the world that is not subsidised by Government. That is simply not true. TfL receives £3.2 billion in grants which is 31% of TfL’s income. Most of that money comes from taxes and much comes from central Government – see https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/how-we-work/how-we-are-funded .

In response to questions on the environment the Mayor said that London air is a killer which is a gross exaggeration. But he got one point right – namely that diesel buses are a major problem. He said the worst areas for air pollution in London are those with the most buses. He said they are not buying any more diesel buses and are retrofitting existing ones.

He got criticism on the ULEZ but apparently expects central Government to bail out folks who cannot afford to buy a new car, which is highly unlikely to happen.

His final major point was to promote another referendum on Brexit. What a pity that Parliament ruled it out the same day which probably pleased the audience and certainly pleased me.

You can see a recording of the meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lmqgw6OjMD4

Mayor’s Tax Precept Rises

There were a number of criticisms of the Mayor’s financial policies at the meeting described above. London residents may have just realised that their local Council Tax is rising significantly this year and one reason is that the Mayor’s tax precept that you pay in your Council Tax, and is passed through to the GLA, is rising by 8.93%. That’s way ahead of inflation and is another example of the Mayor’s financial incompetence.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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ABD Directors Speak to the Express

Two ABD directors, Ian Taylor and Brian MacDowall, recently spoke to the Daily Express about the problems faced by motorists. You can view a video of their interviews including driving around parts of London here: https://tinyurl.com/y2p6qjpa

In summary they say that drivers are finding it evermore “frustrating, inconvenient and expensive” to use the roads with the introduction of new speed cameras and changes to the London Congestion Charge likely to cost road users in the pocket.

Ian Taylor claimed that every measure introduced by the Government “seems to hit the British driver in the pocket” and said that “Whether it be ordinary parking charges, workplace parking charges, it is always hitting you in the pocket, and always trying to exert greater control over every aspect of where you go and what you do.”

They also criticised the Congestion Zone in London which is one of the biggest concerns for drivers and warned against the introduction of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) which could see drivers penalised if they do not comply to the restrictions. Brian Macdowall claimed the introduction of the ULEZ would see the lowest earners hit, which would see a “big cost to drivers” by “unnecessary changes”. The ULEZ, which will be introduced as of April 2019 in London, will see some drivers charged £12.50 a day to use, which when paired with the Congestion Charge fee will total £24.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Legal Action Against Mayor by Minicab Drivers

PHV (Minicab) drivers are incensed by the recent steps by the Mayor of London and TfL to make them pay the London Congestion Charge while licensed taxis will continue to receive an exemption. That and the proposed ULEZ charges will threaten the livelihoods of minicab drivers who are relatively poorly paid already. Many will have to give up and end up out of work.

They are supported by the Independent Works Union and have issued a “pre-action” letter to Mayor Sadiq Khan, prior to the launch of a judicial review.

They are also claiming that as most minicab drivers are BAME (black, coloured or from ethnic minorities) while most taxi drivers are white, this is indirect discrimination.

Comment: Such drivers are certainly incensed by this proposed change as I saw at a recent meeting I attended (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/cab-driver-protests-escalating/ ). There does not seem to be any rational reason for treating one set of cab drivers different to another, particularly as the likely impact on the number of PHV drivers in central London is not forecast to change much, which was the justification for the change. It will of course affect some drivers much more than others.

I wish them the best of luck with a judicial review although these are not easy legal proceedings (I have been involved in more than one), and depend on a lot more than the moral arguments.

Could it perhaps be about money rather than traffic congestion, or principles?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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London Air Pollution Alert, or Perhaps Not

This week (on 26/2/2019) Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, issued an “Air Pollution Alert” in a press release (see https://tinyurl.com/yxud56ya ). He claimed that this is evidence of London’s air quality crisis and why we need the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which will result in Londoners paying millions of pounds in charges.

But if you read further down the press release it says: “This is due to a combination of poorly dispersed local emissions and sustained import of particulates from Germany and France” and he goes on to say this will get worse on Tuesday. But he omitted to mention that the winds from the south are also bringing dust from the Sahara. This was covered in the Financial Times where Alexander de Meij of MetClim is quoted as saying “it is a rare phenomenon because of the Sahara dust” and added that local and European pollution were contributing factors.

Despite all these hysterics, at Wednesday lunchtime, when air pollution was forecast to be “high”, according to the London Air Quality Network it was in reality only “moderate”. The lack of the normal wind and rain in London does not help perhaps but that will change tomorrow.

Readers are reminded that emissions from vehicles are only one contributor to outside air pollution in London and are in decline as they have been for many years. We reported recently on how air pollution on the Underground is much worse and noted how air pollution inside people’s homes is also relatively poor. That was confirmed in a recent report from the University of Texas in the USA where a study of cooking in a typical American home showed high levels of pollutants was the result. Even simply cooking toast raised particle levels substantially.

Meanwhile, you might be surprised to learn that the UK Government is funding activist lawyers ClientEarth through the Foreign Aid Budget – that’s an organisation that has actually been launching legal actions against the UK Government. See this report from the Taxpayers Alliance for more information: https://tinyurl.com/y5aeqdl8

As a result, local councils have been introducing Clean Air Zones with charges on vehicle users, such as the ULEZ in London. But do they have any impact, such as protecting the health of children or anyone else? The answer is no according to this report from the Taxpayers Alliance: https://www.taxpayersalliance.com/there_s_something_in_the_air

The conclusion must be that these impositions are about extracting money from vehicle users rather than a motive of improving health because they will not do so. The Mayor latest scaremongering is just another example of how he is using scare tactics to get people to support the ULEZ.

The Mayor is promoting London as an “Open” city, but perhaps he should try closing it to air pollution from the EU and North Africa. An imitation of King Canute would be appropriate perhaps?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor’s Dubious Gesture and Taxi Age Consultation

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has announced more money for his “scrap for cash” fund. Previously this trade-in scheme for older more polluting vehicles had funds allocated of £25 million but it’s now £48 million. This is particularly designed to help small business owners to replace vans and to help “low-income Londoners scrap older cars”, i.e. the vast majority of vehicle owners will not be eligible.

However, details of the additional scrappage scheme won’t be available until later in the year, despite the fact that the central zone ULEZ commences in April. Details of even the first scheme for vans do not seem to be available from TfL. In reality the amount of money being offered will not cover the vast majority of costs incurred by people in replacing cars and vans, so this looks like a token gesture.

The Mayor did of course promote this scheme at a recent Clean Air Summit meeting where he had children support his actions in the audience. Likewise at a recent London Assembly Committee meeting. They had clearly been well-rehearsed by their teachers. Some of these children came from Henry Maynard Primary in Walthamstow. If you think it is wrong for uneducated children to be used to promote dubious policies which are primarily aimed at raising taxes rather than solving real air pollution issues, you could contact the school here: http://www.henrymaynardprimary.co.uk/contact-details/

The Mayor is a serial offender in using children to support his political campaigning as the ABD has covered previously. Does he have no ethics?

The Mayor has also launched a public consultation on changes to the age limits of taxis – see https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/taxi-age-limits/?cid=taxi-age-limit . Older diesel taxis are undoubtedly some of the most polluting vehicles in central London, but will his changes actually have an impact on pollution? There is a very long phase in time which means that the taxi vehicle fleet might change substantially anyway. There is also still only one electric charging point for taxis in central London so any taxi owner would be unlikely to move to an electric vehicle until that issue is resolved.

Note that these proposals replace previous ones that have not worked. As the Consultation says: “in spite of previous steps to reduce taxi emissions, the required reduction in emissions has not been achieved”. But there is no clear estimate provided of the impact of the new proposed measures on air pollution. And as usual with TfL consultations of late, no cost/benefit justification provided as there should be.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Cab Driver Protests Escalating

I attended a meeting of PHV (minicab) drivers in Hackney last night (members of the UPHD – see www.uphd.org) . They had just finished blocking Tower Bridge for an hour or so, have done other similar demontrationss and plan more. Everyone’s realised that blocking London bridges is exceedingly easy.

Black cab drivers have also done demos outside Parliament and at Bank in the City – about roads being closed to them (and of course all other vehicles except buses) at Aldwych, Tottenham Court Road, Bank Junction, etc.

I promoted the ABD’s campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the ULEZ and emphasised it’s all about raising taxes to fix holes in the Mayor’s budget in in a brief speech at the UPHD meeting. PHV drivers are very unhappy about losing their exemption from the Congestion Charge and of course the new ULEZ charges also. This could destroy their livelihoods, particularly of smaller operators. They think the black cab drivers are being favoured but they are not happy either.

But the demos both groups of drivers are running are not having much impact. The BBC TV news and press media aren’t even covering them of late, despite the major disruption they cause to traffic. Perhaps they need to escalate the demonstrations and block the roads for longer and in a wider area to ensure Transport for London (TfL) and Mayor Sadiq Khan pay attention!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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