Londoners who own cars should become exempt from paying vehicle excise duty – road tax – if the capital introduces its own city-wide “smart” road user charging system, Sadiq Khan said yesterday.
The Mayor, who is consulting Londoners about the possibility of such a change, also said “we are having conversations with the government on this” and described it as “good news” that one of the two remaining candidates seeking to become the next Conservative Party leader, and hence Prime Minister, “is talking about this” – apparently a reference to Rishi Sunak, who showed interest in national road pricing when he was Chancellor.
Responding to questions from Conservative London Assembly member (AM) Peter Fortune at his latest Mayor’s Question Time session at City Hall, Khan stressed that almost all the road tax currently paid by Londoners who own cars is “spent out in the country” and that “what should happen, in my view, is road tax goes for Londoners or we get back the money Londoners pay,” should a comprehensive road user charging scheme happen. “Otherwise London motorist [would be] subsidising motorists outside of the city and paying smart road user charging,” he said.
In the course the exchanges, Fortune told the meeting that Transport for London’s interim chief financial officer, Patrick Doig, had spoken last week of what Fortune called “a significant recruitment process going on in terms of getting technicians to look at road user charging.”
Khan told him that “the ultimate prize is to get rid of the congestion charge, to get rid of the ultra-low emission zone and have a simple system in relation to a smart road user charging scheme.’ That is why Londoners are being consulted about it and TfL has “asked people to do some work in relation to this. There’s was nobody in the world who’d tried the C-charge before we brought it in, nobody in the world who’d tried the ULEZ, so a lot of it is doing the work in advance to see whether it’s possible”.
Fortune’s initial question was about the provision of a new “scrappage scheme” to help Londoners pay for replacing motor vehicles that don’t comply with pollution standards under the proposed further extension of London’s ultra-low emission zone to cover the whole of Greater London.
Fortune, who represents the outer London boroughs of Bexley & Bromley on the Assembly and said there is “a lot of concern” there, was unable to get Khan to provide any “ballpark figures” for how large the fund might be, with the Mayor reasoning that mentioning any possible amount could weaken his negotiating position with the government. Khan said he believes the government should provide scrappage scheme money for “a local London scheme” as it previously has for Birmingham, Manchester and Portsmouth.
However, having earlier referred to the £61 million he found from his own budget for when the ULEZ was enlarged 18-fold from a small central London area out to the north and south circular roads last October, Khan told Fortune “I don’t believe it’s possible to extend the scheme like we want to do without a scrappage scheme”, which would be tailored as before to assist poorer Londoners, disabled motorists, small businesses and charities. He also pointed out that a TfL assessment of the impacts of the initial ULEZ expansion found that 84 per cent of motor vehicles driven outside the zone are already compliant with ULEZ standards.
Khan plans to expand the ULEZ to cover the whole of Greater London on 29 August 2023 in a bid to further improve the capital’s air quality. The consultation about that proposed change, which will close on 29 July, includes an opportunity for Londoners to express views about “smart” road user charging.
Watch the exchanges between the Mayor and Peter Fortune from 1:30:45.
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