Greenwich Council will not be following its neighbours in challenging London’s expanded Ultra Low Emissions Zones in the courts, its leader said on Thursday night.
Anthony Okereke defended mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to charge drivers of the most polluting vehicles £12.50 to enter Greater London, saying that they were about “promoting people’s health”.
But the council’s Conservative opposition leader, Matt Hartley, said that residents in Eltham, New Eltham and Mottingham – which will be taken into the charging zone from August 29 – felt “abandoned” by their council.
ULEZ already covers the north-east of the borough, inside the South Circular Road, but will be expanded to the borders of Greater London, meaning all of Greenwich borough will be included.
Greenwich has long called for a London-wide ULEZ because of the difficulty of having the zone boundary slicing through the borough.
A £110 million scrappage scheme has been announced, but not everyone who needs help will qualify and drivers from outside Greater London will be unable to apply.
Conservative councils are firmly opposed to the anti-pollution scheme, arguing that it is not necessary, and some are refusing to allow TfL to erect signs and cameras on roads they control. In SE London, Bexley and Bromley are seeking a judicial review of Khan’s plans.
Some Labour politicians – including the Erith & Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare – have also voiced concerns about the timing of the expansion, which is happening while other household costs are rising.
Hartley told last night’s full council meeting that critics were “standing up for their residents”.
“People in Eltham, New Eltham and Mottingham feel abandoned by their Labour council and by their MP,” he said, asking Okereke to “speak to his Labour colleagues about their concerns”.
But Okereke accused Hartley of electioneering ahead of the City Hall poll next year.
“This is not a council that is going to dip into reserves to spend money on a judicial review to challenge the mayor,” he said. These are tough times facing the public sector at the moment, and we’re not going to throw away our residents’ money just to get your vote up.
“We know where the Conservatives are going and we know what the public thinks of them. The decision taken by our Labour mayor is one that is looking to safeguard the health of our residents.
“The Conservatives might not want to be bold when it comes to taking climate action, but the Labour Party will because we are seeking to promote people’s health and wellbeing.”
Okereke said all councillors were making residents aware of the scrappage scheme.
Yesterday Khan wrote to Rishi Sunak asking the prime ministerto help fund an extension of the scrappage scheme so it would include the Home Counties.
The government has previously funded clean air zones in Birmingham, Bristol and Greater Manchester. In the capital, council taxpayers and farepayers are covering the cost of ULEZ.
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