County Council votes to oppose ULEZ expansion

ULEZ signage will be banned from Essex County Council-owned land when Sadiq Khan’s planned expansion of the scheme rolls out to the county’s borders next month.

The move was part of a motion approved by the authority’s cabinet on Tuesday July 11, in which they agreed to formally oppose the Mayor of London’s bid to impose congestion charges in areas within close proximity of the London border.

The motion also seeks to ban any new ULEZ signage being erected on the county council’s land or highways, as well as prevent any existing signage being modified.

Cllr Whitbread (Con, Epping and Theydon Bois) said: “In Essex, hundreds of residents are attacked by ULEZ, which is a tax without accountability.

“This council recognises the importance of air quality for Essex residents and the council’s forthcoming strategy sets out the current understanding of the air quality issues and clear actions to improve the air quality in Essex going forward.”

Cllr Whitbread also highlighted how plans to expand the zone from August 29 would disproportionately affect key healthcare workers who are required to commute to towns which have been absorbed into the London border such as Upminster and Hornchurch.

Among Essex areas that will be on the border of the daily £12.50 ULEZ charge are Purfleet, Brentwood and Loughton.

She said that if a hospital worker is timetabled for a night shift, driving out to one of these towns and back either side of midnight, then they will be forced to pay approximately £25 per round trip.

Vulnerable and elderly residents are also set to feel the sting of the “money-grabbing” scheme, as they are the largest group in possession of RAC’s estimated figure of 800,000 vehicles which are non-compliant with ULEZ criteria.

A number of cabinet members spoke in support of the motion, including Councillor Jaymey McIvor, also of Epping Forest District Council. He said: “I find it very difficult to be polite and complimentary about the Mayor of London’s work.

“(ULEZ) is cruel to the poorest and hardest working in our society… it is cruel to London’s reputation.”

However, not all councillors in attendance stood in agreement with the motion. Labour councillor for Colchester Lee Scordis denounced Cllr Whitbread’s objection to ULEZ as “complete scaremongering”.

Despite the ULEZ expansion being scheduled for August 29, a High Court ruling in favour of five councils claiming that the Mayor’s proposal is illegal may yet postpone further progress.

The presiding judge, Mr Justice Smith, has said he will aim to hand down his judgement by July 31.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter