Hertfordshire County Council leader Richard Roberts has warned that ULEZ signs and cameras will not be allowed within the county’s borders, should the zone be expanded as planned in August. And he has told London Mayor Sadiq Khan that the county council will consider legal options, pending the outcome of an ongoing Judicial Review.
Under controversial ULEZ expansion plans, any motorist driving a higher emission vehicle into Greater London would have to pay a daily charge of £12.50. And where a charge was not paid, motorists would face a £90 fine – that would double to £180 if not paid in time.
London transport bosses have said the aim of the ULEZ expansion is to improve air quality by reducing the number of vehicles in London that don’t meet emissions standards. But councillors in Hertfordshire have said it would create ‘an effective tax border’ to the south of the county – and would penalise vulnerable motorists who could not afford to change their cars.
Now council leader Cllr Richard Roberts has written directly to the London Mayor to outline the council’s objections. In the letter he stresses that air pollution is something that the county council ‘takes incredibly seriously’.
And he says it’s something the council would like to work with him on to improve. But he calls on the Mayor to ‘pause’ the expansion of the zone – in order to redraw the zone boundary and to provide public transport options for those who cannot upgrade their vehicles.
“In Hertfordshire, many residents, families and businesses are telling us that they are dealing with the tightest squeeze on their finances in over a generation,” he says. “The simple fact of the matter is that at this time many people with non-compliant vehicles, often the lowest paid in society cannot afford to upgrade their cars, are not eligible for the scrappage scheme and have no viable public transport alternatives.”
Cllr Roberts highlights Transport for London plans to develop existing car parks in outer London. And he says: “I would personally ask that you pause the expansion of the zone and look to redraw the zone boundary to align with outer London public transport hubs, providing those who cannot upgrade their vehicle with public transport options before having to absorb the proposed £12.50 per day cost of the expanded zone.”
Based on the current proposals, Cllr Roberts warns the Mayor that the county council will not permit any ULEZ signage or enforcement cameras to be located within the boundary of the county. He says the council will consider ‘options in relation to legal action’ pending the outcome of the ongoing Judicial Review, in which the plans are being challenged by a number of other councils.
And he urges the Mayor that if proceeding with the ULEZ expansion the ‘scrappage’ scheme includes counties surrounding Greater London. The letter – sent on Friday (July 21) – comes after a meeting of the county council agreed that the ULEZ expansion needed a “complete rethink” on Tuesday (July 18).
The motion – proposed by executive member for the environment Cllr Eric Buckmaster – said the charge would be ‘an additional tax’. And it said those least able to afford a new car would be the ones paying the fees and fines ‘from meagre salaries and pensions’.
“It is bad enough that Hertfordshire residents will have an effective tax border erected in the south of the county,” says the motion.
“But it means that all the residents in the counties surrounding London will end up subsidising Mayor Khan’s social services, transport, or whatever financial hole that needs topping up. This is unfair, hitting the most vulnerable at the worst time. This needs a complete rethink.”
In the motion Cllr Buckmaster also pointed to fears of rat-running by motorists to avoid cameras. And while charges would be imposed on Herts residents travelling over the border to work, to school, to socialise or for healthcare, Cllr Buckmaster stressed that the London Mayor’s ‘scrappage scheme’ was not available to them.
Amendments were put forward by the council’s Labour and Liberal Democrat groups – but all were rejected. Proposed amendments from the Labour group had highlighted that the ULEZ scheme was introduced by Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson, in 2015.
They said it would be ‘a minority’ of residents with older cares that would have to pay the charge. And they said the council should ask for a government-funded wider scrappage scheme to cover London and the Home Counties.
A proposed amendment by the Liberal Democrat group had also suggested an enhanced scrappage scheme should be put in place – that included residents in districts and boroughs adjoining Greater London. And it suggested enhancements to public transport in outer London and adjoining parts of Hertfordshire , to be funded from the income generated from the ULEZ charges.
It also indicated that the majority of cars and vans – ‘estimated to be 85 per cent’ – would already comply with ULEZ emissions requirements and would be unaffected by the expansion of the ULEZ zone. The unamended motion was agreed by the council – with the Conservative majority voting for, but Liberal Democrat and Labour groups voting against.