Ulez scrappage scheme expanded after Khan relents to pressure

City Hall announces expansion of £110m scrappage scheme to allow more drivers to upgrade their vehicles, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

credit Documerica via Unsplash
credit Documerica via Unsplash

Sadiq Khan has announced that he will be expanding his £110million scrappage scheme in preparation for the London-wide Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez).

The London mayor has loosened the scheme’s eligibility to cover all small businesses in the capital and all families receiving child benefit. City Hall said the criteria will be made less restrictive from the end of July – meaning tens of thousands more Londoners will be eligible to apply.

Pressure had been growing on Khan in recent days from several MPs and borough leaders in his own party – as the scheme is only currently open to Londoners receiving certain low income or disability benefits, as well as London-based charities and micro-businesses. Some five Labour MPs and eight council leaders had all written to him requesting the scheme be increased in scope.

The new, loosened criteria will cover:

  • Londoners receiving child benefit. There are currently 874,710 London families in receipt of child benefit – though only those with non-compliant vehicles can apply;
  • Businesses registered in London with fewer than 50 employees. Currently, only those with up to 10 staff can apply;
  • London-based charities looking to scrap or retrofit up to three vans or minibuses, instead of just one.

It will also provide a new grace period for small businesses and charities who have ordered compliant vehicles, but have been informed delivery will be delayed until after the zone expands – or if they have booked an approved retrofit appointment before that date.

The scheme will be kept under “ongoing review” and the mayor has also asked Transport for London (TfL) to actively monitor applications from care workers to ensure they are benefitting from the money available.

Ulez is expanding to cover the whole of London on 29th August. It requires drivers of non-compliant vehicles who travel within it to pay a £12.50 daily charge.

The scrappage scheme allows Londoners to have their non-compliant vehicles destroyed in exchange for a grant payment, which can be put towards the cost of a new vehicle. In some cases, it is possible to have vehicles retrofitted under the scheme.

Khan said: “The majority of vehicles in London are already Ulez compliant and will not have to pay anything. But I completely understand the concerns of people who may not have a compliant vehicle and are worried about how they’ll make the transition.”

He added: “I’ve listened to families and small businesses in outer London who want more support and I’m pleased to be able to announce today a major expansion to the scheme run by TfL to ensure we can help them.

“Expanding the Ulez was an incredibly difficult decision for me. But with toxic air damaging the health of millions of Londoners and the need to tackle the climate crisis, I believe the cost of inaction would simply be far too high a price to pay.”

Peter Fortune, Conservative London Assembly member for Bexley and Bromley, said he “welcomed” the mayor’s decision, but that he is “offering the bare minimum”.

He said: “This minor change will not cover the crippling expense of buying a new car.

“The best thing Sadiq Khan can do now is scrap it [the London-wide Ulez] and start tackling air pollution where it is, instead of taxing people where it isn’t.”

Overall, 6,892 applications have been approved through the £110m scrappage scheme so far, with £25,372,800 committed to date.

Responding to the announcement on the Ulez scrappage scheme expansion, however, Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Hina Bokhari said: “It’s about time the mayor did something. But what he has announced today falls short of the action needed.

“In February our proposals to double the Ulez scrappage scheme from £100m to £220m was backed by all other opposition parties but was voted down by Labour politicians trying to protect the mayor’s image.

“Our scheme would have been open to all Londoners and that is what we will continue to fight for.”

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