More than half against Ulez expansion says poll — but Sadiq Khan calls it ‘misleading’

By law, the Ulez’s primary purpose must be to reduce pollution, not raise revenue (PA Archive)
By law, the Ulez’s primary purpose must be to reduce pollution, not raise revenue (PA Archive)

More than half of Londoners oppose Sadiq Khan’s plans to expand the ultra-low emission zone to the Greater London boundary, it was claimed on Thursday.

It came as former mayor and ex-prime minister Boris Johnson backed cross-party calls from his local council for the Ulez expansion to be ditched on cost-of-living grounds.

But Mr Khan repeated his vow to “clean up London’s filthy air” as he published new figures showing 3,645 children and young people were admitted to hospital with asthma in London in 2021/22, up 64 per cent on the previous year.

Air pollution can be a trigger for asthma attacks.

The YouGov poll of 1,072 adult Londoners found 51 per cent opposition to the Ulez being widened, from its current boundary up to the North and South Circular Roads across all 33 boroughs. Some 34 per cent were in favour and 15 per cent didn’t know.

Sadiq Khan wants to expand the Ulez zone (Jeremy Selwyn)
Sadiq Khan wants to expand the Ulez zone (Jeremy Selwyn)

But the poll, commissioned by the GLA Conservatives, was described as “misleading” by the Mayor, as respondents were falsely told that the Ulez was being expanded “to generate additional revenue for TfL”.

By law, the Ulez’s primary purpose must be to reduce pollution, not raise revenue — though this is allowed as an indirect consequence. The current Ulez has generated almost £100 million in the past year.

The Tory poll contradicts a YouGov poll commissioned by Mr Khan in July which found 51 per cent support for widening the Ulez — though this included eight per cent who wanted its expansion delayed beyond next year’s target launch date of August 29.

But they are similar to the levels of opposition to the expansion reportedly seen in Transport for London’s official consultation, which has yet to be published.

Nick Rogers, GLA Conservatives transport spokesperson, said: “This poll reaffirms what we and the Mayor already know: an overwhelming majority of Londoners are opposed to Sadiq Khan’s Ulez expansion.”

Mr Khan is due to face questioning from the London Assembly on Thursday afternoon on his plans to expand the Ulez for a second time.

It was launched in central London in April 2019 and expanded to the suburbs in October last year.

Hillingdon council has described the Ulez as a “punitive tax on the residents and businesses of outer London” and the “wrong policy in pursuit of the right objective”.

Mr Johnson, whose constituency is in Hillingdon, tweeted his support for the council’s stance last night and said: “It is not the right time for this measure which would add to people’s cost of living.”

At present, fewer than one in 20 car drivers have to pay the £12.50-a-day charge because their cars are “clean” enough to meet the emissions rules. But 17 per cent of van drivers have to pay.

Tory objections are focused on the cost to low-income Londoners unable to replace their vehicle and City Hall data that shows the Ulez expansion would do little or nothing to reduce particulate levels and nitrogen dioxide emissions in boroughs such as Sutton and Croydon.

Mr Khan said there was a “shocking inequality” in the London children admitted to hospital with asthma, with half from ethnic minority backgrounds – despite their families being less likely to own a car.

He said: “It’s unacceptable that any children are suffering health problems due to London’s toxic air, but that some children are being vastly worse affected than others is even more of an injustice.

“I am determined to clean up London’s filthy air, to protect the health of every child in London but also to ensure the future of their city in tackling the effects of climate change.

“This is why I consulted on expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone. This would mean five million more people breathing cleaner air.”