Councillors clash over mileage idea

Waltham Forest councillors clashed over a hypothetical pay-per-mile scheme being adopted in the borough at a full council meeting on Thursday evening.

Conservative members called on Waltham Forest Council to “stand against” any further driving charges introduced in the coming years – including a possible ‘pay-per-mile’ scheme – at a full council meeting on April 25.

But it was met with ire and frustration from their Labour peers, who control the council. 

Deputy council leader Clyde Loakes said the motion had a number of “substantial pitfalls,” namely its hypothetical nature.

He said the authority “can’t stand against something that’s not being considered or introduced,” and said the motion, if passed, would have an impact on the potential introduction of new petrol charges or changes to MOTs.

But the target of the Tories’ motion, presented by group leader, was the controversial ‘pay-per-mile’ scheme.

The motion, which failed to pass, read: “Waltham Forest Council stands against any further driving charges to residents in coming years, in particular any pay-per-mile scheme.”

The possible system, which has not been formally proposed, has been a point of contention in the mayoral race between Tory candidate Susan Hall and the incumbent Sadiq Khan.

Conservatives have maintained that the Labour mayor plans to introduce a pay-per-mile system, which would see drivers pay extra charges for every mile they drive, despite his repeated denials.

Prior to ruling it out, Sadiq had discussed the potential for introducing such a scheme in the future with Transport for London (TfL) officials.

Tories have maintained that the mayor cannot be trusted, with Waltham Forest Conservatives leader Emma Best saying he was “masquerading” his true intentions.

She called him “opaque,” saying he “takes the public down the road only to do something different”.

Conservatives have criticised Sadiq for a perceived U-turn on widening the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ), in which cars that do not comply with emissions standards are charged a fee, to cover almost all of Greater London.

Having previously said he would not, he extended the controversial policy in August last year.

Tensions in the town hall flared when Cllr Best took Labour’s objections as an indication the scheme was still under consideration.

She said: “Now we know. For you to not take it off the table proves it’s still there.

“This is a wake up call for Sadiq Khan for mayor – this London Labour party wants pay-per-mile and will make you pay for every single mile you drive.”

After the meeting, she posted on X/Twitter: “The mask slips; it’s obvious what they want to impose on Londoners.”

Cllr Loakes stood up to respond, making a point of order that he “did not say that” before angrily dismissing Cllr Best’s words as a “conspiracy theory”.

He previously said the “desperate, out-of-season pantomime” reflected poorly on the Conservatives, adding that he “cannot support this sentence pretending to be a motion”.

The dogged nature of their exchange is typical of the wider debate around the benefits of the ULEZ programme.

Susan Hall has committed to scrapping the expanded scheme if she wins and ending what she calls the “war on motorists”.

The motion failed to pass, with nine voting in favour and 41 voting against.

According to the Evening Standard, Mayor Khan currently boasts a 13-point lead in the mayoral race over the Conservative hopeful.


Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter