Daily Mail

How London’s eco-obsessed mayor is threatenin­g to drive white van man off the road

Sadiq Khan has made it his mission to extend the controvers­ial Ultra Low Emission Zone across the entirety of the capital. But it could leave drivers of older cars facing a ruinous £3,000 a year bill...

- By Andrew Pierce

For decades, politician­s from prime ministers down to the most humble backbenche­rs have communicat­ed with their constituen­ts on smart, headed notepaper. Much of this bespoke stationery — along with the business cards used by MPs and members of the Lords — has been provided by Langford Printers, a 50-year- old family firm that serves an array of prestigiou­s London establishm­ents as well as the Houses of Parliament.

But, sadly, the Kentish company, which sends vans into the capital every day to make deliveries, has now been forced to close. And owners Adrian Langford and Mark Southgate firmly place the blame on one man: London’s controvers­ial mayor Sadiq Khan.

Why? Because Khan, 52, has decided to extend his much- criticised Ultra- Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover the entirety of his fiefdom’s 32 boroughs. From August 29, vehicles that do not meet minimum emissions standards will have to pay a £12.50 fee to enter the city.

This is on top of the existing £15 congestion charge for those wishing to travel to central London. If drivers attempt to dodge the new fee, they could incur a £160 fine.

The current ULEZ spans from Tottenham in the north, down to Brixton in South London. Under Khan’s expansion plan, the boundary will stretch out towards places as far afield as Watford, in Hertfordsh­ire, and Caterham in Surrey.

City Hall hopes the move will encourage drivers to scrap their old inefficien­t cars and opt instead for

‘This is the final nail in the coffin for our business’

newer models — or go electric. But for many struggling businesses like Langford Printers such an expense is impossible. With the cost- of-living pressures, even the new ULEZ fee will be too much to bear.

Adrian, 55, tells me: ‘It’s frankly the final nail in the coffin for us. It will mean my business partner and I will have to pay £600 a month just to get into our vans. It’s not viable. We can’t do it any more.

‘This is a family firm and I’m thirdgener­ation. My dad and my uncle are no longer with us. I think they’d be spinning in their graves if they knew what’s to become of their firm. I’ve been in the trade for more than 30 years, my business partner more than 50. We haven’t a clue what we’ll do next. Thank you, Sadiq Khan!’

They’re not the only ones, of course. As richard Littlejohn warned in Friday’s Mail, the ULEZ extension will cripple many self- employed tradesmen and force countless businesses to shut up shop.

Despite the chorus of dissent, the eco-mad mayor is pushing ahead. After nearly seven years in office, the ULEZ expansion represents the fulfilment of his dream of total London domination. And if the proverbial ‘white van men’ who keep Britain going and even the mums on the school run have to pay the price for his political ambitions, so be it.

A recent report by Transport for London (TfL) estimated 30,000 noncomplia­nt vans will be slapped with the fee in August. For a driver entering London five days a week, this will amount to a £3,000 annual bill.

But even if all these drivers wanted to switch to ULEZ-compliant models, they couldn’t. For, according to figures from Auto Trader, just 5,181 diesel vans (the most common kind used by tradesmen) are on sale that meet the emission levels needed to avoid the fee.

What does Mr Khan assume the other 25,000 drivers will do? A new all- electric Ford Transit would set you back a staggering £40,000.

It’s no wonder, then, that a public consultati­on by TfL in November showed 80 per cent opposition to the expansion. Nonetheles­s, Khan — widely accused of an arrogant manner in his dealings with City Hall officials — is pressing ahead.

The rules are the most stringent in Europe, running 24 hours a day, every day of the year except Christmas Day. Even London’s beleaguere­d black- cab drivers — already struggling with competitio­n from Uber and other modern taxi-hailing companies — will have to pay if their vehicles don’t meet minimum emissions standards.

Teachers and NHS staff won’t be exempt either. Some point out that nurses and ambulance staff who work nights could even be hit twice by the charge, as their shifts often straddle two days. It is ironic that any pay rise secured by striking public- sector workers — fervently supported by many of Khan’s Labour Party colleagues — would be totally wiped out by ULEZ fees.

Khan is confident this is a price worth paying, saying last week: ‘I

understand there are some who have expressed concerns about the ULEZ expansion. But our polluted air is a health emergency.

‘We must do everything possible to save the lives of the thousands of Londoners who die through causes linked to air pollution.’

Yet even on this point, people are divided. Soon after the launch of ULEZ in 2019, a study from London’s Imperial College found that it only caused ‘small improvemen­ts’ in air quality. At the time, the mayor rubbished the findings as ‘misleading’.

So, could all this be about a little more than potential decreases in pollution? Hugely ambitious, Khan has always had an over-inflated sense of his place in the political pantheon. He still nurses the forlorn hope that he will one day become Labour’s first Muslim leader and even Prime Minister.

He has also reportedly told Labour colleagues that he believes the ULEZ wheeze will enhance his reputation both in his party and internatio­nally.

Certainly, the scheme represents a generous cash injection into City Hall coffers. Buried on page 91 of the mayor’s draft budget, published last week, is the prediction that combined revenue from the ULEZ and congestion charges will soar above £1 billion.

For unpaid-fee fines alone, Khan collected almost £57 million from motorists in the first 11 months of 2022. The RAC estimates this could rise to £260 million after August’s expansion.

This is, of course, on top of the other price hikes Khan has imposed on Londoners. In April, he will break his own record with a 9.7 per cent hike in the City Hall share of council tax bills. Since he took office, he will have put up council tax by a staggering­ly rapacious 57 per cent.

He has also run up a £740 million deficit at TfL, despite hiking rail fares (for passengers travelling at any time in zones 1-6) by 20 per cent during the same period.

His opponents insist that the whole ULEZ project, meanwhile, reeks of hypocrisy.

While hammering motorists, the mayor prefers a softly- softly approach to green maniacs like Just Stop Oil — who have caused chaos while gluing themselves to roads, bringing the capital to a standstill. In December, he warned that the Government’s response to protesters must only be ‘within the law’, which renders police all but impotent. And yet, critics point out, he has flown the equivalent of 14 times around the world during his mayoralty.

In May last year, a particular­ly risible photoshoot emerged of Khan on a visit to a cannabis factory in Los Angeles. He said it was a ‘fact-finding mission’ to see if California’s legalisati­on of the drug could be copied in London.

Back home, meanwhile, the far more pressing issue of gang-related knife crime — much of it drugfuelle­d — continues to blight London. Figures show Metropolit­an Police recorded more than 11,000 knife crime incidents in 2022 — up 7.4 per cent on the year before. And new data last week revealed rape cases had risen 11 per cent from September 2021-22 — with 25 reported every day.

But instead of spending his multi-million-pound windfall from ULEZ and congestion charges on tackling his lawless domain, Khan — who is also the capital’s police and crime commission­er — has chosen to spend his money on pointless virtue-signalling.

Following the death of George Floyd, the black man who was murdered by a police officer in the

U.S. in 2020, the mayor launched a pompously titled Commission For Diversity In The Public Realm, which aims to review London’s statues and landmarks to ensure they are ‘sufficient­ly diverse’. The scheme will reportedly cost more than £1 million.

With a combined following on Instagram of 341,000 people on both his personal and his official account, Khan also has a vast City Hall PR budget of more than £1 million.

Furthermor­e, last November, he launched a ‘debt-free advice: costof-living bus tour’ to help hard-up Londoners. The three-month programme claims to offer ‘a range of in-person advice including debt advice, advice on benefit entitlemen­ts and other money worries’ as well as hosting ‘webinars on a range of topics including budgeting, debt options and mental health’. Many have dismissed it as an expensive PR gimmick.

Khan lavished £145,000 on the specially adapted single- decker bus; including £ 12,000 for PR advice, £1,000 for a photograph­er and £10,000 for a ‘celebrity ambassador’. I am told a famous face has yet to appear on the tour — unless Khan is counting himself.

Worse still, cash was diverted for the vanity project from City Hall funds designed to help poorer families. Some £45,000 came from the low-income and food programme budget, while £70,000 came out of the children and young Londoners early years budget. And the bus is diesel. (So much for practising what you preach!)

Khan’s hypocrisy was also made apparent when some Labour councillor­s complained that two parking spaces were allocated to him at the new City Hall HQ in East London’s Royal Docks. His own planning policies, they pointed out, dictate that new office developmen­ts should be car-free.

Unlike his Labour predecesso­r Ken Livingston­e, who was a regular on the Tube, the mayor is rarely seen on public transport. During his two terms as mayor from 2008 to 2016, Boris Johnson cycled to work and to many official engagement­s. Yet it seems self-styled ecowarrior Khan is far too grand.

Indeed, he was widely ridiculed in 2021 when he took a gas-guzzling three- car convoy, including a £75,000 petrol Jaguar, on a 4.5-mile journey to Battersea Park in order to walk his pet dog Luna.

Two days before, he had moaned that the inner city was ‘clogged by

Study saw only a small boost in air quality

‘It is pricing poorer people off the road’

cars’, adding portentous­ly: ‘Time is running out to stop a climate catastroph­e.’ Will he be similarly hypocritic­al when it comes to his ULEZ expansion plans?

Politicall­y, things are certainly fraught. Last week, despite public disapprova­l, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer came out in support of the expansion, saying: ‘It’s the right thing to do.’

On the other hand, four London Conservati­ve boroughs — Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon — oppose the ULEZ expansion. Tory councillor­s are taking legal advice on how to stop the plan in its tracks.

But Khan has warned he will install the camera technology without permission.

In Croydon, elected Tory mayor Jason Perry told me he was appalled. ‘Khan’s plan will not only force hundreds of Croydon residents to pay £12.50 a day just to drive their car, but his own studies show it will have very little environmen­tal impact,’ he said. ‘Punishing those who cannot afford to buy a more modern vehicle is deeply unfair and out of touch.’

It’s not just Tories joining the revolt. Leader of the Lib Dem-controlled Sutton council, Ruth Dombey, announced her opposition at a council meeting this month. ‘In a matter of months, the mayor is expecting our residents to stump up the cash to change their car or use public transport that doesn’t exist,’ she said.

A spokesman for the AA, which estimates ULEZ will affect 300,000 motorists, said: ‘ULEZ is simply pricing poorer people off the road.’

Andy Mayer, energy analyst at the Institute of Economic Affairs, agreed: ‘Just picture a family in 2024, now required to use three buses rather than their old banger, as they sit with bawling children in gridlocked traffic. Do you think they will be relieved to learn their forced sacrifice will make an undetectab­le difference to global temperatur­es?’

But perhaps Emma Best, of the Greater London Authority Conservati­ves, put it most succinctly: ‘Sadiq Khan has not been honest about ULEZ expansion, which will devastate low-income Londoners while doing next to nothing to improve air quality. There is no low to which he will not stoop to further his own career. Londoners are paying the price for his hypocrisy.’

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 ?? Pictures: LORNA ROBERTS/SHUTTERSTO­CK/DAVID MIRZOEFF/PA ?? Easy target: A ULEZ zone in London and, far left, mayor Sadiq Khan on a hire bike
Pictures: LORNA ROBERTS/SHUTTERSTO­CK/DAVID MIRZOEFF/PA Easy target: A ULEZ zone in London and, far left, mayor Sadiq Khan on a hire bike

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