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London mayor softens green policy blow with more cash to scrap old cars

London mayor softens green policy blow with more cash to scrap old cars
Anti Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) protesters demonstrate outside the High Court in London, Britain, 04 July 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN)

Mayor Sadiq Khan said he will boost payments for scrapping old cars and extend the programme to all residents of the city, part of an effort to reduce pollution and fossil-fuel emissions.

The move comes as the mayor prepares to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone to London’s outer boroughs this month. The UK’s main opposition Labour Party — of which Khan is a member — blames his plan for its surprise defeat in a special election in July in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, which is one of the areas set to be covered in the new extended ULEZ zone.

Khan said on Thursday the cost of the scrappage program will rise to £160-million from £110-million to address concerns about ULEZ and its impact on consumers struggling with soaring living costs. 

Every Londoner with a car that isn’t compliant with the ULEZ rules will be eligible for a £2,000 grant to upgrade their vehicles. Small businesses can receive up to £21,000 to scrap up to three vans, Khan’s office said in a statement.

“I’m not prepared to step back, delay or water down vital green policies like ULEZ,” Khan said. “We are ensuring that help is now available for everyone – and I urge Londoners to come and get it.”

The ULEZ expansion became a flash point in the by-election to replace former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Uxbridge, which Labour had hoped to win for the first time. But many voters in the district saw the election as a referendum on Khan’s plan, and Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives narrowly held on.

The Tories have since taken the result as evidence they can make electoral gains by appearing to back away from green policies. Labour’s disappointment fed tension between Khan and the party’s leadership.

Transport for London estimates that 90% of cars used on a typical day in areas covered by the expansion are already ULEZ-compliant. DM

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