The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has renewed its calls on Sadiq Khan to “take concrete actions to reform the Ultra-Low Emission Zone scrappage scheme” in advance of zone’s expansion to cover the whole of Greater London, so that the motor vehicles of all of the capital’s smaller businesses can meet the required air quality standards in time for the expansion in August.
In a letter to the Mayor, LCCI chief executive Richard Burge has acknowledged that enlarging the ULEZ is step towards improving London’s public health and making it environmentally safer and greener, but also expressed concerns that the financial demands of switching to cleaner vehicles will be too great for many of the capital’s smaller firms.
The ULEZ, which in October 2021 was vastly enlarged from its initial coverage of just the congestion charge zone out to (but not including) the north and south circular roads, imposes a daily fine of £12.50 on the owners of the most polluting vehicles driving within it. The LCCI has been campaigning for larger grants and a longer period of adjustment to the new rules.
The current scrappage scheme – a £110 million fund administered by Transport for London to which owners of non-compliant vehicles can apply to help them meet the cost of upgrading them – is set up for car and motorcycle owners on certain low incomes or in receipt of disability benefits and for the vans or minibuses of eligible London sole traders and “micro businesses” with up to ten employees and annual turnovers of less than £632,000, as well as to registered charities.
The scheme can provide successful applicants with between £5,000 and £9,500 towards replacing non-compliant vehicles, depending on their type and the type of replacement sought. However, the fund is not accessible to larger companies still considered to be small or medium-sized, many of which are LCCI members.
In a statement, Burge said: “The ULEZ scheme, introduced as a public health initiative, should not snowball to become another economic issue that London businesses need to worry about. The proposed start of the wider ULEZ area represents a challenge for businesses. It is imperative that the Greater London Authority (GLA) reviews its stance and makes reforms to provide support for small businesses and not just sole traders and micro businesses. This is not just critical towards protecting the London economy but will also ensure more vehicles are compliant so that air quality is tangibly improved.”
His colleague, LCCI head of policy and public impact James Watkins, said “The ULEZ scheme has the capability of transforming London into one of the cleanest cities in the world,” but also drew attention to the length of time it can presently take to purchase new ULEZ-compliant vehicles – a view shared by membership organisation Logistics UK, which has cited continuing Covid impacts and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for slowing the supply chain.
“Due to extended lead times for new vehicles, the second-hand vehicle market is also seeing significant upward pressure on prices,’ Watkins said. “This could further inhibit the ability of firms to switch to ULEZ compliant vehicles before the proposed start date for the extended zone.” The LCCI has suggested City Hall creates a “green transition list” of businesses able to demonstrate that they have purchased a ULEZ-compliant vehicle they have not yet received whic would be exempt from ULEZ charges.
The London Assembly has passed an amendment to the Mayor’s forthcoming 2-23/24 budget asking for some of the Greater London Authority’s financial reserves to be used to increase the scope and scale of the scrappage scheme.
On London strives to provide more of the kind of journalism the capital city needs. Become a supporter for just £5 a month. You will even get things for your money. Learn more here.