Basildon Council votes to oppose ULEZ expansion

Basildon Council has become the latest of a number of local authorities in the region to oppose ULEZ, including signage on land across the district.

At a meeting on October 19, leader of Basildon Borough Council Andrew Baggott (Con, Burstead) moved a plea from all political groups, asking in no uncertain terms for the authority to categorically oppose ULEZ expansion into South Essex

In his proposal, he said that Basildon’s Conservative-led administration is “unequivocal in being totally opposed to the government and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan expanding ULEZ into Basildon.

“It is a barrier to business and it affects residents at a time when the cost of living and fuel are at an all time high.

“To some extent it’s a lovely little money-spinner for the government.”

Fellow Tory councillor Phil Turner (Billericay West) called the roll out of ULEZ “punitive”, and its purpose to impose a “stealth tax”.

He said: “ULEZ is masquerading as a green agenda… in reality it’s hitting trade, the economy, and is already having an effect on jobs.”

He added that those on fixed or low incomes will bear the brunt of the issue if ULEZ were to be imposed on Basildon, and that it would be made worse by residents’ reliance on cars and a public transport system which is a fraction as effective of that in the capital.

However, Councillor Kerry Smith (Ind, Nethermayne) criticised the administration in its approach to the issue, saying: “If the Conservative administration is genuinely fearful of an ultra low emissions zone coming to Basildon, then we had better break away from (Conservative-led) Essex County Council.

“The Conservative party only needs a boogeyman to scare people. Essex County Council truly has no intention of implementing ULEZ.”

Despite supporting the basis of the motion, members of the opposition were eager to reassure those in attendance that regardless of what the Mayor of London decides, the Labour party has no plans to extend ULEZ into Essex beyond areas defined as London boroughs.

Councillor Alex Harrison (Lab, Lee Chapel North), although stating explicitly that he would vote in favour of the motion, said: “ULEZ signage is not needed in Basildon as it does not border any councils which fall within the scheme’s boundary.”

Following this, Councillor Susanna Caira-Neeson (Lab, Lee Chapel North) reminded those present that “(Basildon) is not a London borough, and therefore no such scheme will be imposed here.”

She said that the blame for the creation of ULEZ lies with the Conservative party, and reminded the council that the idea was first introduced during former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s time in office as London’s mayor. Cllr Caira-Neeson that the current Conservative administration had “failed (Basildon) in so many ways”.

During his final summary, Cllr Baggott responded to Cllr Smith’s “labyrinthine narrative” surrounding the issue, though both councillors agreed to refrain from further arguments. This included an allusion to an attempt to forcibly remove Cllr Smith from a meeting in March of this year, during which Cllr Baggott had similarly made a statement about the planned ULEZ expansion. However, no wrongdoing was found to have occurred, and Cllr Smith remained for the meeting’s duration.

Cllr Baggott’s motion was passed unanimously after going to vote.

Emma Doyle

Local Democracy Reporter