The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

Ulez will ‘stop low-income pensioners seeing friends’

- By Nick Gutteridge Political corresPond­ent

SADIQ KHAN’S expansion of the Ultralow emission zone (Ulez) will hinder poorer pensioners shopping and seeing their friends, a Labour shadow minister has warned.

Ellie Reeves said many low income families would be “unduly prohibited” from driving in the capital and urged the Mayor to step in with more support.

Her remarks in a letter risk igniting a civil war in the party over the highly controvers­ial traffic measure.

Under the scheme, the most polluting vehicles have to pay £12.50 a day to enter the centre of the capital.

The decision to expand the charge to all of Greater London has been heavily criticised by some Labour councillor­s.

In her letter, Ms Reeves, a shadow justice minister and the MP for Lewisham West and Penge, said the decision would “unfairly hit” her constituen­ts.

“This includes pensioners with little disposable income who need their cars to do a shop or see friends and family, through to parents receiving child benefit who need support to make the switch for their family car,” she wrote.

“Care workers and small businesses are affected too. They are doing the right thing caring for their community or providing local employment but cannot afford to make the transition.”

Ulez only applies to the most polluting cars, which tend to be older and owned by poorer families who cannot afford to upgrade to a cleaner model.

Mr Khan has announced a scrappage scheme to help low-income households switch, offering £2,000 towards a new car and £1,000 for motorbikes.

But the money only covers a fraction of the cost of upgrading to a newer vehicle and is only available to people on specific types of benefits.

The mayor’s office has said that more than nine out of 10 cars in the capital are now Ulez-compliant, meaning they do not have to pay the charge.

Ms Reeves said she was “concerned by some of the one in 10 who cannot afford this expansion” and said the scrappage scheme should be reviewed.

“I therefore call on you to … widen its scope so that those who will be unfairly hit by Ulez can have a fair chance to do the right thing,” she wrote.

“I know many Londoners understand the importance of clean air and support your intention behind the Ulez scheme, which I have backed from day one. But at a time when many of them are struggling to get by, in large part due to the Conservati­ve cost of living crisis, I hope you will consider my request to review and expand the scheme.”

Mr Khan defended the Ulez scheme yesterday saying that its critics included “Covid deniers, anti-vaxers [and] antilockdo­wn people”.

He also accused the Tories of playing “party politics” on the issue by campaignin­g against the expansion.

Five Conservati­ve-led councils have started legal action, with some saying they will refuse to install the cameras needed to enforce the charge.

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