Merton Calls for More Support for Drivers Hit by ULEZ

Wants a more generous scrappage scheme to avoid 'stealth tax'

Concerns that extended charge zone will hit less well off who need to use their cars

There are fears that people on lower incomes living in Merton would be hit with a “stealth tax” if an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is rolled out across the capital.

The council is calling for more support for those that need to use their cars, including a “generous scrappage scheme” for residents with the most polluting cars.

A daily charge of £12.50 for vehicles not meeting emission standards could be introduced in August 2023 under ULEZ plans. Transport for London carried out a consultation on the proposals earlier this year.

At a Merton Council meeting on Wednesday (21 September) the Conservative group tabled a motion for the council to “demand” that plans for the zone be dropped.

Councillor Eleanor Cox said: “People of London beware of the Labour mayor who is a reverse Robin Hood taking from the poorest of our society through a ULEZ stealth tax of £12.50 a day during a cost-of-living crisis.

“Our Labour mayor says only 18 per cent will be impacted by ULEZ. The financial burden of ULEZ will be forced onto this 18 per cent and affect our most vulnerable residents.”

Cllr Cox claimed cleaner air in Greater London could be achieved by rolling out a fully electric bus fleet in the city.

But the council’s deputy leader Councillor Eleanor Stringer hit back saying the Labour group takes “air quality very seriously” saying drivers shouldn’t be pitted against public transport users.

She said, “In our consultation response we focussed on the need to look after the low-income households who can’t afford a new vehicle, these residents often live in areas with poorer public transport connectivity. We also need to consider workers who need to drive or people who need carers to drive to their homes.”

A Labour amendment of the motion called on central government to step in and for more support for those who can’t replace their polluting cars, including care workers and those who use their cars for work.

Cllr Stringer added, “We are calling for a generous and well-run scrappage scheme to support residents who want to replace their vehicles with cleaner ones. They should also look at options such as retrofitting vehicles to avoid residents needing to buy completely new cars.

“We know the Mayor of London is trying to do the right thing but without funding, he is limited in what he can do to support all those groups who need financial assistance if the proposals go ahead. We call on central government needs to step up and fund accordingly.”

Labour’s amendment was backed by the council’s Lib Democrat opposition and was carried.

Lib Dem leader Councillor Anthony Fairclough said: “We very much feel that the proposal to extend ULEZ should not be about raising revenue. The amendment mirrors much of the mitigation we put forward in our consultation response.”

Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

September 22, 2022