Sadiq Khan extends London grants scheme to take sting out of Ulez

All Londoners with non-compliant cars will now be able to obtain financial support to switch to greener, less polluting vehicles

Traffic passes a sign pointing to the ultra-low emission zone near Hanger Lane in west London on July 22. AFP
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A major expansion of the financial support available to London's drivers has been announced by the city's Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to ease the effects of the capital’s ultra-low emission zone on people’s pockets.

Every Londoner with a polluting car facing charges under Ulez will now be able to receive a grant of up to £2,000 ($2,542) to support an upgrade, Mr Khan has said.

The announcement comes after Mr Khan was asked by Labour leader Keir Starmer to reflect on how the extension of Ulez to all London boroughs was being carried out.

The opposition leader blamed concerns about the scheme for his party’s narrow by-election defeat in Boris Johnson’s old seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip last month.

Mr Khan said that while he will not “step back, delay or water down” the policy to tackle air pollution, he is widening the scheme after listening to residents’ unease about Ulez amid a crisis in the cost of living.

While previously only child benefit recipients, low-income and disabled people were eligible for grants, from August 21 all Londoners with non-Ulez compliant cars or motorcycles can apply.

The Labour incumbent also announced that small businesses and sole traders can receive £21,000 ($27,000) to scrap up to three vans, with £27,000 available for charities to replace three minibuses.

More support starting on Friday includes higher payments for switching to an electric vehicle, for charities with old vans, and for retrofitting an existing vehicle.

Grants for replacing wheelchair accessible vehicles will double to £10,000.

Expansion of London's Ulez low-emissions zone approved - in pictures

It comes before the Ulez expansion to beyond the capital’s north and south circular roads on August 29.

Drivers of vehicles that do not meet minimum emissions standards are charged a £12.50 daily fee for entering the zone.

“I have always said that expanding the Ulez to the whole of London was a difficult decision, and not one I took lightly ," Mr Khan said. "But it’s a decision I remain committed to seeing through.

“I’m not prepared to step back, delay or water down vital green policies like Ulez, which will not only save lives and protect children’s lungs by cleaning up our polluted air, but also help us to fight the climate crisis.

“I have continued to listen to the concerns of Londoners over recent months, and today I can announce a huge expansion to the scrappage scheme that means that all Londoners with non-Ulez compliant cars will now be able to get financial support to switch to greener, less polluting vehicles.

“As we continue to build a greener and healthier London for everyone, I’m determined that no Londoner and no London business is left behind.

"We need to take people with us on the path to a sustainable future.

"We are ensuring that help is now available for everyone, and I urge Londoners to come and get it.”

Mr Khan, who last week won a High Court challenge against five councils who wanted the Ulez expansion to be ruled unlawful, will use £50 million of City Hall’s reserves to fund the changes.

This will bring the total investment to £160 million – the most generous scrapping scheme ever seen in the UK, his office said.

Transport for London says nine out of 10 cars driving in outer London on an average day comply with the Ulez standards.

But figures obtained by the RAC show more than 690,000 licensed cars in the whole of London are likely to be non-compliant.

This does not take into account other types of vehicles or those that enter London from neighbouring counties, which will continue to be excluded from the scheme.

“The expansion of the scrappage scheme means that the remaining minority of Londoners who need to drive and don’t have a car that meets the standards now have access to financial support to make the green transition," said Christina Calderato, Transport for London's director of strategy and policy.

Nathan Coe, chief executive of Auto Trader, said: “Further support, in the shape of a scrappage scheme for all Londoners, shows that prioritising clean air doesn’t have to be a decision of pocket over planet,"

But Susan Hall, the Conservative Party’s candidate for the London mayoral election in May next year, said the changes were “too little, too late”.

“Thousands of families, small businesses and charities face financial ruin because of Sadiq Khan’s Ulez expansion, which will do next to nothing to improve air quality.

“If I am elected Mayor, I will reverse this disastrous policy and replace it with a £50 million fund to reduce air pollution without taxing people.”

Updated: August 03, 2023, 10:41 PM