OPINION - The Standard View: Sadiq Khan’s bold move on Ulez expansion is a victory in the fight for clean air

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Governing is ultimately about choices. Mayor Sadiq Khan has made a bold one today, confirming that the ultra-low emission zone will be extended to cover all of Greater London from next summer.

The move, described by the Mayor as “one of the toughest” in his political career, comes in the face of opposition and will mean that 15 per cent of vehicles registered in the new outer London zone will be liable for the £12.50-a-day charge.

The decision follows a consultation which found that 60 per cent of respondents were opposed to the move. But for Khan, the battle to rid London of toxic air has become his political calling. And as a result of the expansion, an estimated five million Londoners, according to City Hall, will be able to breathe cleaner air as motorists switch to cleaner alternatives in the suburbs.

While more than 96 per cent of cars in the existing zone within the North and South Circular Roads comply with Ulez rules and do not have to pay the charge, clearly that is not all. So there is a carrot in addition to the stick. To that end, Khan has announced a £110 million scrappage scheme, more buses in the suburbs and a “grace period” until October 2027 before Londoners with disabilities are liable for the charge.

Scrappage payments, targeted at low-income Londoners, will include £1,000 for a motorbike, £2,000 for a car and £5,000 for a van, while grants to retrofit vehicles with cleaner engines will also be available. However, the money is being funded from existing budgets, so cuts will have to be made elsewhere.

Clearly, during a cost-of-living crisis and at a time when the UK may still be in recession is not an ideal time to introduce a new charge. But the reality is, there is rarely a perfect time to do something big, ambitious and where some people will face higher costs.

Amid the technical details, we cannot lose sight of the overaching goal. A city where the air is clean, for all Londoners. Once we have it, we will never believe we lived without it.

Appeal passes £2m

The Evening Standard Christmas appeal, which aims to support people struggling to provide the basics amid a cost-of-living crisis, passed the £2 million mark today, thanks to major donations from British Airways and eBay. Other big donors so far include Sainsbury’s and Amazon, which donated six-figure amounts on top of the initial £1 million pledged by Comic Relief.

On the Breadline, our campaign run jointly with our sister paper The Independent, will provide a vital lifeline for families looking for food, clothing and support on energy. This will be a difficult winter for so many, but if you can, please donate to help fellow Londoners and people across the country.

England expects

Not only are England one win away from qualifying for the knockout stages of the World Cup, it comes off the back of scoring six goals in their opening match. But the game against the US kicks off at 7pm on a Friday night, rather than the middle of the working day. Fans and pub landlords, rejoice.