By Andrew Allison, Chief Executive
Is the imposition of ULEZ in outer London Sadiq Khan's poll tax moment? It is officially called the Ultra Low Emission Zone, but I prefer to call it the Unfair Legalised Extortion Zone*. Despite the majority of people in outer London being opposed to its imposition, today is the day when that imposition has taken place. If you drive a car or van that is not ULEZ compliant, you will have to start paying £12.50 a day for the 'privilege' of driving your vehicle. And, of course, this charge will not only affect those who live in outer London. Those who live near London's boundaries and have to enter the capital, will also have to pay the charge. Those who will be affected are most likely to be poorer people and the elderly - people who need to drive to attend hospital appointments and buy groceries.
If the air quality in London was appalling, one could understand why Khan felt that he had to take some form of action. But it isn't. And surely if air quality was so bad, he would have banned certain vehicles from driving on London's roads? But he hasn't done that, either. Expanding ULEZ will not save 4,000 lives - researchers converted the data to 'equivalent lives.' In other words, residents in London could lose an average of 2.5 to 2.8 days of life expectancy each year. According to The Times (£), "Many experts have raised concerns that the claim of 4,000 premature deaths is unnecessarily alarmist and misleading."
What this ULEZ expansion will do is damage the economy as people find ways of avoiding the charge. Businesses will suffer and tradespeople will be forced to pass on additional costs which could make them uncompetitive. This at a time when we desperately need growth in the economy.
The truth is that Khan needs as much cash as he can get due to his mismanagement of Transport for London. He spouts untruths to justify this policy, but the vast majority see this for what it is: a money grab - a legalised extortion zone.
Any driver will tell you that the freedom to drive is one of the best freedoms there is. Khan is attempting to take this freedom away from those on low incomes - people who may not have reliable bus services and people who can't walk long distances and rely on their cars to lead their everyday lives.
Could this be his poll tax moment? I sincerely hope so. He may well take a majority of votes in inner London, but outer London is likely to give him the order of the boot. We will find out on 2nd May next year.
*H/T: Tim Scott