Sadiq Khan has refused to “water down” the capital’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) expansion as he opened financial support to all Londoners to soften the impact of the scheme.
The London mayor declined to say whether he is on the same page with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who blamed concerns around Ulez for his party’s narrow by-election defeat in Boris Johnson’s old Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat last month.
Ulez, which costs drivers of vehicles that do not meet minimum emissions standards £12.50 a day to enter, is set to expand to all London boroughs from August 29 in a bid to tackle air pollution.
Mr Khan on Friday announced that every Londoner with a polluting car will now be eligible for a grant of up to £2,000 to switch to a greener model, while small businesses can get £21,000 to junk up to three vans.
It comes after Sir Keir asked him to reflect on how the extension was being carried out following the Uxbridge result.
Asked whether the Labour mayor and the party’s national leader are now in agreement on the issue, Mr Khan declined to answer, instead lauding the widening of the scrappage scheme.
“I’m determined to make sure that no Londoner and no London business is left behind and I’ll carry on listening,” he told the PA news agency at a bus garage in Edgware.
Pressed on whether the Ulez expansion could impact Labour’s chances at the next general election, Mr Khan said that when he stands for a third term as mayor next year he will “build on our record of tackling the twin emergencies of the climate emergency and air pollution”.
“These policies are policies that are popular when they’re properly explained,” he added.
“I’m quite clear that I’m simply not willing to delay, water down or step back on these vital public health and green policies.”
Critics have questioned whether a £2,000 grant is enough for people to upgrade their car.
Susan Hall, the Conservative Party’s candidate for the London mayor election next May, said the changes are “too little, too late”.
“The grants aren’t sufficient as prices for used cars and vans have gone up and the expansion in eligibility doesn’t come into effect until a week before the Ulez,” she told LBC Radio.
Health minister Maria Caulfield told Sky News the financial support has “touched the sides of people’s concerns” and that “£2,000 is nothing if you’re having to replace your car”.
But Mr Khan insisted there are plenty of second-hand Ulez-compliant vehicles that can be purchased for less than £2,000.
He said nine out of 10 cars seen driving on an average day in outer London are compliant, so the vast majority of Londoners “won’t pay a penny more”.
But figures obtained by the RAC show more than 690,000 licensed cars in the whole of London are likely to be non-compliant.
This does not take into account other types of vehicles or those which enter London from neighbouring counties, which will continue to be excluded from the scrappage scheme.
Mr Khan told PA: “The good news is that people can now start looking for alternative cars if their car’s not compliant, but the even better news is more likely than not your car is going to comply.”
A Labour shadow minister praised Mr Khan for listening to people’s concerns about the Ulez expansion, which she said is ultimately “his decision”.
Alison McGovern told Times Radio: “What Keir said was that people should be listened to and I think this announcement shows this morning that the mayor is listening.”
While previously only child benefit recipients, low-income and disabled people were eligible for scrappage grants, from August 21 all Londoners with non-Ulez compliant cars or motorcycles can apply.
More support kicking in on Friday includes higher payments for switching to an electric vehicle, for charities with old vans, and for retrofitting an existing vehicle. Grants for replacing wheelchair-accessible vehicles will double to £10,000.
The mayor, who last week won a High Court challenge against five councils who wanted the Ulez expansion to be ruled unlawful, will use £50 million of City Hall’s reserves to fund the changes.
This will bring the total investment to £160 million – the most generous scrappage scheme ever seen in the UK, he said.
Published: by Radio NewsHub