West Sussex councillors speak out against expansion of ULEZ

West Sussex councillors have spoken out against the decision to expand the London Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
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During a lively debate at County Hall, Chichester, members discussed a motion from Richard Burrett (Con, Pound Hill) which asked leader Paul Marshall to write to the Mayor of London urging him to reconsider his decision.

ULEZ was expanded at the end of August to cover all London boroughs and anyone who drives a vehicle which isn’t exempt into the zone has to pay a £12.50 daily charge.

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Most petrol cars registered since January 2006 are exempt from that charge.

Richard Burrett, West Sussex cabinet member for education and skills. Picture: contributedRichard Burrett, West Sussex cabinet member for education and skills. Picture: contributed
Richard Burrett, West Sussex cabinet member for education and skills. Picture: contributed

Describing ULEZ a ‘stealth tax which will only penalise the least well-off in society’, Mr Burrett said: “People who live in West Sussex on low incomes are more likely to own older vehicles which are not exempt, and therefore they will bear the brunt of the charge.”

Councillors argued back and forth, with some accusing the Tories of ‘political point scoring’ while others questioned how much difference ULEZ would even make to air quality and wondered if there had not been enough public consultation about the expansion.

A 10-week consultation was held in 2022 and was responded to by just shy of 58,000 people and organisations.

West Sussex wasn’t one of them.

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The meeting was told that Joy Dennis, cabinet member for highways & transport, wrote to the Mayor of London seven weeks before the expansion came into effect.

Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Lord questioned why anyone would think that a letter from a county which doesn’t even border London would make a difference when sent in one year after the consultation had closed.

Accusing the Tories of latching onto a controversial subject in an attempt to win votes, she added: “You aren’t doing this because you care about people on low incomes needing support to deal with ULEZ.

“If you did, you would have responded to the consultation at the right time.

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“You would now be supporting Transport for London calls for the government to support a national scrappage scheme or you’d even be looking at how many West Sussex residents are significantly affected by expansion and seeing what you could do to actively support them – which would also benefit the air quality of our own county as they wouldn’t be driving polluting vehicles on our roads.”

One of the main issues raised was the fact that drivers who had entered London at, for example, 2pm on one day, paying the £12.50 charge, would be charged another £12.50 if they left after midnight.

Bob Lanzer (Con, Maidenbower & Worth) pointed out that the technology must exist to charge for a 24-hour period rather than midnight to midnight.

Mr Lanzer also argued that there had been an ‘inadequate assessment’ of the impact of the ULEZ expansion on areas beyond Greater London.

The motion was agreed by 37 votes to 0 with 18 abstentions.

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Mr Burrett said: “This is not about political point scoring.

“This is about telling an individual that they have made a mistake and that they have put something into place which is unpopular and which is not going to achieve the effects [planned] but instead is going to have a very serious financial effect on a large number of people.

“The poorest in society – the people we are supposed to be concerned about the most. The vulnerable people who we are here to protect.”