Councils can put brakes on future Ulez schemes

Mark Harper is drawing up changes to prevent a repeat of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to expand his Ultra Low Emission Zone to the capital’s outskirts, despite objections from some local authority leaders.

Ulez, already in force in central London, means owners of older cars, motorbikes and vans must pay £12.50 daily to use the roads.

But Mr Harper revealed the Government will back an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill, making its way through Parliament, which would allow councils to opt out of any future schemes.

The Ulez scheme is expanding this week, a move which has been condemned in many quarters, although all attempts to stop it have been thwarted.

Mr Harper has written to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urging him to block the plans.

He said: “While I do not have the legal power to prevent the Ulez expansion being introduced, you do have the power to stop it.”

He challenged Sir Keir to “impress on your Labour colleague Sadiq Khan it is not too late for him to change course” – and pointed out the party had the power to deselect Mr Khan, who is due to seek re-election in May. Sir Keir backed the Ulez expansion in January but appears to have changed tack.

Earlier this month he insisted: “What I don’t want is schemes that disproportionately impact on people in the middle of the cost-of-living crisis.”

Last night the GMB called on the mayor to think again.

Trevlyn McLeod, the union’s London Regional Organiser, told LBC: “Listen to the peo- ple Mr Khan; listen to the people who are going to suffer; listen to the people who can’t afford now to go to work or put food on the table.We all want clean air for our children and generations but you’ve gone in too far, too deep and it’s going to cost people’s lives and livelihoods. People are absolutely angry – and so are our members who can’t afford £12.50 a day or to buy a new car.”

But Mr Khan issued a defiant statement insisting the scheme is essential and calling Tuesday’s expansion “a landmark day for our city”.

“We’ve already seen huge progress since I announced the expansion,” he said.

“Nine in 10 cars seen driving in the zone are already compliant and won’t pay a penny. Financial help is available for every single Londoner and small business whose vehicle is not compliant.”

“It was a very tough decision to expand the zone, but with toxic air leading to around 4,000 premature deaths each year and our children growing up with stunted lungs, it is the right thing to do.”

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