No Plan B if ULEZ Expansion Blocked in Courts

Successful challenge by five councils would result in budget shortfall

The expansion is due to take place in August. Picture: Hillingdon Council

February 23, 2023

City Hall has no financial plan for if it loses a legal challenge over its attempt to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), Sadiq Khan has confirmed.

The Mayor of London revealed that no budgetary preparations had taken place for the eventuality of losing the legal challenge brought against City Hall by the borough councils of Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon, along with Surrey County Council.

The five councils are all opposed to the ULEZ expansion and have together filed a lawsuit, which claims that the move would be unlawful.

The question of whether there would be any impact on City Hall’s budget if it lost the legal challenge was raised by Conservative London Assembly Member Nick Rogers at a Tuesday (21 February) meeting.

Mr Rogers asked the Mayor, “What would be the budgetary consequence of any delay or change to the ULEZ plans?”

Mr Khan replied, “I’ve been Mayor now for seven years, minus a few weeks, and I’ve experienced many legal challenges to TfL [Transport for London], as did the previous mayor – so there’s always legal challenges when you’re running a public transport body like TfL.

“What you don’t do is work on the basis that you’re going to lose a legal challenge, you work on the basis that the plans that we have will go ahead.

“So there aren’t any plans about the consequences to the budget of those five Conservative councils succeeding in their judicial review.”

Mr Rogers, who represents Hounslow, Kingston and Richmond on the Assembly, followed up: “So you’ve no contingency plans for if the case is lost?”

“If the councils win, no,” said Mr Khan.

The ULEZ currently covers the area inside the North and South Circular Roads, but Mr Khan intends to expand the zone to cover all of Greater London – effectively taking it up to most roads inside the M25 motorway – on 29 August. Drivers of non-compliant vehicles within the ULEZ have to pay a daily charge of £12.50.

The expansion plan has come up against opposition from councils in outer London and the home counties, who mainly argue that the zone’s expansion will do little to improve air quality – and is being introduced at the worst possible time owing to the cost-of-living crisis.

Mr Khan claims that five million more Londoners will breathe cleaner air if the ULEZ expands to cover the whole city and often points out that around 4,000 premature deaths in London per year are due in part to poor air quality.

In Tuesday’s meeting, Mr Rogers also asked whether any timetable changes had been made due to the legal challenge: “Have you taken any action at all, no pausing of rollouts, no pausing of procurement, nothing like that at all?”

Mr Khan said no pausing had taken place.

Finally, Mr Rogers asked whether enforcement cameras to monitor the expanded ULEZ were going up yet.

Mr Khan’s chief of staff, David Bellamy, replied, “Yes, the process is happening. The rollout has been happening initially on TfL-owned roads, and then we’re working obviously with boroughs and going through the appropriate processes with them for the rollout.”

At the end of January, only 16 out of 24 outer London boroughs had agreed to have cameras erected on their roads.

Some of those delays were due to approval being required from a full council meeting rather than there being in-principle objections.

TfL already has the legal power to install about two-thirds of the new required cameras because they will be placed on top of existing traffic lights.

TfL also has the authority to erect cameras on borough roads but has said it would prefer to do this with local consent.

Noah Vickers - Local Democracy Reporter


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