Sadiq Khan today rejected fresh calls for him to postpone his expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) as he told tradespeople they should be in favour of having to scrap their old vans.
The London mayor is under increasing pressure ahead of his planned Ulez extension at the end of this month but dismissed demands for a delay to its enforcement.
The Labour politician argued tradespeople should want to swap out their current vehicles for a Ulez-compliant van because it would make them ‘less likely’ to develop a health condition such as asthma.
Mr Khan added this would see them take less time off work from ‘being unwell because of air pollution’ in the capital, as he defended his plan to extend Ulez to all London boroughs.
The Ulez expansion is due to come into force on 29 August after the London mayor last month won a legal battle against five Tory-led local councils at the High Court.
It means the £12.50-a-day charge for non-compliant vehicles will soon be active in all parts of Greater London.
There has been a huge backlash against Mr Khan’s plans amid concerns it will add to the bills of families and businesses amid the gruelling cost-of-living crisis.
Among those who it is feared will be most-impacted by the Ulez expansion are tradespeople – especially sole traders – who require larger vehicles to transport their tools across London.
But, speaking to FixRadio – a station for UK tradespeople – this afternoon, Mr Khan suggested health concerns should motivate tradespeople to exchange their non-compliant vans for cleaner vehicles.
‘If you are a driver, driving a car that has to pay the Ulez charge, it means you’re driving a vehicle where you’re breathing in more poison then you should be breathing in,’ the London mayor said.
‘So you should want to be driving a cleaner vehicle you should want to be driving a Ulez-compliant vehicle because it reduces your life expectancy and makes it more likely rather than less likely, that you’ll get asthma, dementia, heart disease or cancer.’
Challenged about whether he would postpone the Ulez expansion amid the cost-of-living crisis and the current high prices of new and second-hand vans, Mr Khan replied: ‘I completely understand the concerns tradespeople have with the cost-of-living crisis and the economic mismanagement of the Government.
He added: ‘I understand, it’s particularly difficult now.
‘Tradespeople are taking time off work because of asthma and other health-related issues caused by respiratory conditions.
‘It’s in tradespeoples’ interests to be having vehicles that are compliant because it means they take off less time from work by being unwell because of air pollution.’
The London mayor pointed to how he had expanded a scrappage scheme for non-compliant vehicles and was now offering a £7,000 scrappage payment for vans.
He is also allowing small businesses and sole traders to be able to scrap three vans or minibuses. And Mr Khan is increasing retrofit payments from £5,000 to £6,000.
Susan Hall, the Tory candidate to replace Mr Khan as London mayor at next May’s election in the capital, has vowed to halt the Ulez expansion on ‘day one’ of being in office.