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Council leader’s call to expand Ulez scrappage scheme

Waltham Forest Council leader writes to City Hall with concerns over limited support for drivers of old cars, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Grace Williams (inset) has called for an Ulez scrappage scheme to expand
Grace Williams (inset) has called for an Ulez scrappage scheme to expand

Pressure is growing on Sadiq Khan from his own side to expand the scrappage scheme for drivers affected by his plans for the London-wide Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez).

Several Labour MPs and borough leaders have in recent days said the existing £110million scrappage scheme does not cover enough people whose vehicles will be liable to pay the £12.50 daily charge, once the zone expands to cover the whole of London – including Chingford – on 29th August.

In a letter to the mayor sent on Tuesday (30th) Waltham Forest Council leader Grace Williams said the scheme should be widened “to provide further support for parents and carers, many of whom work in critical jobs”.

She added that more small businesses should be made eligible for the scheme and that the grace period for drivers who have booked by a certain date to retrofit their vehicles should be reviewed.

The letter is the latest in a series of interventions in the last few days from Labour politicians across the capital, including four MPs.

The existing scrappage scheme is open to Londoners on certain low income or disability benefits with cars, motorcycles and wheelchair accessible vehicles that do not meet the Ulez emissions standard, as well as eligible sole traders, micro businesses or charities with a registered address in London, to scrap or retrofit a van or minibus.

Eligible applicants can currently get up to £2,000 for scrapping a car or up to £1,000 for scrapping a motorcycle. For wheelchair accessible vehicles there is a payment of £5,000 to scrap or retrofit to the Ulez standard. Those looking to trade a van or minibus can get between £5,000 and £9,500.

Khan has said that around £20m of the £110m scheme has been allocated so far. Writing to the mayor on Sunday, Brent North MP Barry Gardiner asked Khan “to consider revising the scrappage scheme to make it even easier for the minority of families and small businesses whose vehicles are affected to switch to a cleaner, newer vehicle”.

The former government minister added: “They want to do the right thing; but they need just a little more help.”

Labour MPs Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge), Rosena Allin-Khan (Tooting) and Abena Oppong-Asare (Erith and Thamesmead) all wrote to the mayor with the same request on Friday, while Hackney mayor Philip Glanville followed on Saturday.

All said that they supported the principle of the Ulez expanding, but that they had concerns about the restrictiveness of the current eligibility criteria for the scheme – particularly in light of the cost of living crisis.

In a video published on Friday, Peter Fortune – the Conservative London Assembly member for Bexley and Bromley – made the same request to Khan, saying: “Too many people are getting a ‘computer says no’ response when they apply and we have to do something to help these people.

“Of course, I believe the best way to help them is to stop the Ulez expansion. But at the very least, we should be able to agree that more people deserve help from the scrappage scheme than is currently available. The criteria needs to be loosened.”

A spokesperson for Khan responded: “The mayor is doing all he can to support Londoners through the cost of living crisis but, with lives on the line and the health of children at risk due to London’s toxic air, he is clear that expanding the clean air zone was a difficult decision but a necessary one.

“The latest data from Transport for London shows 90% of cars driving in outer London already meet Ulez standards and the mayor expects the number of compliant vehicles to go up even more over the coming months.”

She added: “The scheme is kept under constant review to ensure its effectiveness and the mayor is looking at what extra support could be provided.

“He also continues to call on the government to support the switch to cleaner vehicles through funding a targeted national scrappage scheme or providing additional funding to London, as it has done for other cities across the country.”