Tory-run councils defy Sadiq Khan's hated ULEZ £12.50-a-day expansion

Tory-run councils seeking delay to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s hated ULEZ £12.50-a-day expansion face spending £400,000 if they take case to the High Court

  • Four rebel councils are opposing Sadiq Khan’s ultra-low emission zones (ULEZ)
  • The Tory-led boroughs defied an order to implement the policy by February 2 
  • Now, the four authorities could spend as much as £400,000 on judicial review 

Rebel councils opposed to the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) could spend nearly half-a-million pounds of public money in a legal battle with London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Four councils on the outskirts of the capital – Harrow, Hillingdon, Bexley and Bromley – were faced with a deadline of last Thursday, February 2 – to sign an agreement for the expansion of the low emission area to cover Greater London’s border with the Home Counties.

But the Conservative-run authorities jointly refused to do so and could now take their fight to the High Court in a bid to block the charging zone being extended to their areas – said to cost at least £400,000.

Transport for London (TfL) stated in a letter to council leaders that it still has the power to go ahead with the installation of signs and enforcement cameras on the boroughs’ roads.

Despite this threat, Harrow Council is set to issue High Court proceedings by February 24 against Mr Khan and the council also reportedly said it will fight the case alone if other Tory boroughs back down.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan gave the wider London boroughs until February 2 to sign an agreement agreeing to the expansion

Rebel councils opposed to the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) could spend nearly half-a-million pounds of public money in a legal battle

ULEZ – which will see drivers charged fees for using older – more polluting vehicles within the new area, is set to be extended from the current boundary of the North and South Circular roads inside London, across the whole of the outer area of the city from August 29.

Drivers will be charged £12.50 a day for driving a non-compliant car, bus or van and can be fined for non-payment. The zone is in force 24 hours a day, every day except Christmas Day.

Hillingdon and Harrow in north London, along with fellow rebels Bexley and Croydon in south London, signed a joint statement, citing their ‘vehement opposition’ to the ‘half-baked plans’ and ‘outrageous announcement’.

They vowed: ‘We will do everything in our power to stop it from going ahead..’

Cllr Colin Smith, leader of Bromley Council in south east London that is also battling City Hall, confirmed: ‘Our complete opposition and cynicism as to Mayor Khan’s rationale for expanding ULEZ is well documented.’

The amount of money at stake in fighting the expansion through the courts is said to be enough to run two libraries for a year, and one Labour critic slammed the Harrow Tories, saying they should be ‘ashamed’ of the waste.

Instead, the rebels said in defiance: ‘Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon councils will not sign the Section 8 agreement with TfL while legal advice is being taken.’

Labour’s London Assembly member for Brent and Harrow, Krupesh Hirani, said Harrow Tories should be ‘ashamed’ of wasting almost half-a-million pounds.

Under the ULEZ, drivers who do not meet minimum emissions standards are charged a £12.50 daily fee for entering the zone. 

The four grounds for judicial review are that Mr Khan acted beyond his powers, relied upon ‘incorrect’ assumptions, denied private motorists access to a vehicle scrappage scheme, and lacked detail in how the costs and income of the expansion were calculated.

READ MORE: Sadiq Khan sparks fury over the £110m ULEZ scrappage scheme


But Transport for London claimed none of the grounds established that the decisions were unlawful, or that this is arguable.

The councils previously said in a joint letter: ‘Until we have seen compelling evidence to the contrary, it remains our position that this scheme will not translate successfully to outer London and the negative impact to local households and economies will far outweigh the negligible air quality benefits.’

In response to the joint statement by Hillingdon, Harrow, Bexley and Croydon councils, the mayor’s office claimed blocking the ULEZ expansion could cause the deaths of hundreds of residents in the rebel boroughs.

A spokesman for the mayor of London said: ‘Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year due to toxic air, with the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in London’s outer boroughs.

‘Children are also growing up across London with stunted lungs as a consequence of air pollution.

‘Data collated by Imperial College London reveals that as many as 155 deaths each year are attributable to toxic air in Hillingdon, 118 in Harrow, 162 in Bexley and 204 in Bromley.

‘An estimated five million more Londoners are expected to benefit from cleaner air when the ULEZ is expanded London-wide.’

A TfL spokesperson clarified that while there was a deadline yesterday for the agreement, this does not mean the transport body will immediately begin a forced implementation of additional cameras – this will instead come into force after August 29.

But TfL said it has the legal powers to override the councils’ refusal, but they would prefer to have their consent.

Had the rogue councils signed the agreement, the local authorities would have a say over the design and positioning of new cameras and signs.

The spokesman for Sadiq Khan added: ‘The mayor has launched the biggest scrappage scheme yet – £110m – to help the Londoners who need it most, including charities, low income and disabled Londoners, micro-businesses and sole traders.

‘This is on top of the £61million provided for previous scrappage schemes. The ULEZ is a very targeted scheme to get the most highly polluting vehicles off the roads.

‘Four out of five vehicles seen driving in outer London are already ULEZ compliant and will not need to pay the ULEZ.

‘Any money received from the scheme will be reinvested into running and improving London’s transport network, including the expansion of bus routes in outer London.

‘The mayor is aware of the letter from the four boroughs and TfL has responded. We will continue to work with all boroughs to help them prepare for this life-saving initiative for our city.’

Sutton Council also initially refused to sign, as did Kingston Council, with leader Andreas Kirsch writing to Sadiq Khan to urge him ‘to allow more time for the implementation of the ULEZ in the outer London boroughs to allow for mitigation’.

Barking and Dagenham council in east London also initially joined the rebels. as leader Darren Rodwell called for a delay and a more ‘generous’ scrappage scheme.

Bexley Council said it will oppose Transport for London’s ULEZ expansion, but two main roads in the borough are owned by TfL, meaning the authority will not need permission to install cameras on these routes.

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