Legal Challenge to Scrapping of Minicab Congestion Charge Exemption

Union claims it unfairly targets BAME drivers

Legal Challenge to Scrapping of Minicab Congestion Charge Exemption

Sadiq Khan is facing a court battle over his decision to scrap the Congestion Charge exemption for minicabs – as a union claims it disproportionately impacts black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) drivers.

London’s traffic levy aims to reduce tail backs in the city centre, with drivers paying a daily fee to drive in the zone.

Black cab drivers don’t pay the charge – but last year the Mayor removed the exemption for private hire drivers, including Uber, ViaVan and Addison Lee.

Now the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) claims private hire drivers are facing indirect discrimination, because most are of BAME heritage, while the majority of black cab drivers are white.

But City Hall says forcing private hire drivers to pay helps reduce traffic and cut air pollution.

The Congestion Charge was temporarily suspended along with the Ultra Low Emission Zone fee at the start of coronavirus lockdown.

But the Mayor reintroduced the charge last month at the demand of Government, as a condition of a £1.6 billion bailout of Transport for London (TfL).

The Mayor was also told by ministers to “urgently bring forward proposals to widen the scope and levels” of the Congestion Charge – and last Monday (June 22) it rose from £11.50 to £15 a day.

Operating hours were also extended from 7am to 6pm on weekdays to 7am to 10pm, seven days a week.

The IWGB is now appealing a High Court case settled in July last year, in which they called for a judicial review of the Mayor’s decision to remove the Congestion Charge exemption for private hire drivers.

City Hall said scrapping the exemption would reduce private hire traffic in the charge zone by six per cent, with an overall traffic reduction of one per cent – helping improve air quality.

The court ruled in favour of the Mayor, stating that the change was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

The IWGB challenge began today in the Court of Appeal and the case continues, with a judgement expected tomorrow.

Jessie Matthewson - Local Democracy Reporter

June 30, 2020