Boris Johnson has urged Sadiq Khan to halt his plans on any ULEZ expansion amid the cost of living crisis. The prime minister and former mayor of London made the intervention as local councillors in Bexley attempt to stop the plan.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is reportedly looking at expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone to cover most of London in the capital’s fight for clean air. But Mr Johnson said now is not the time to “hit people” with more tax as costs rise, and compared it to his experiences as mayor during the financial crisis of 2008.
On a visit to a school in Bromley, the prime minister exclusively told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I agree [with Bexley Council] and I think it’s timely as I’m in favour of improving air quality and generally air quality has been improving in London, it certainly improved on my watch, I remember very considerably.
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“I think it was in 2008/9 there was the question of implementing what was then the low emission zone, and I delayed it and made it less burdensome, precisely because that moment coincided with a huge pressure on the economy, on people’s costs, on families and on small business.
“So what I would say with Bexley Conservatives is that now is the time to recognise those pressures. Don’t add more burdens to families now, don’t add more burdens to business. We can improve air quality together but I think another tax on families and businesses and white vans and the rest of it, is going to hit people just when we’re trying to put more money into their pocket.”
The local elections saw the Bexley Tories lose only a single councillor, leading to a renewed push by the Conservatives to stop ULEZ growing. Their 33 councillors, two MPs and Greater London Assembly Member signed a joint letter calling an expansion “punitive and unfair”.
ULEZ continues to be a point of contention in South East London. One NHS boss told a Bexley Council meeting in March that hospital staff were deliberately parking further away from Queen Elizabeth Hospital to avoid being hit with the charge.
And in November a couple living on the ULEZ border in Eltham spoke of their fury at having to buy new vehicles or face being charged every time they turned left out of their driveway. The mayor’s office has been contacted for comment.