A Labour council in London which backs the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) has been accused of hypocrisy after it asked for exemptions for its vehicles.
Hounslow Council wrote to Sadiq Khan last summer raising concerns that it would not be able to make its entire fleet of vehicles Ulez compliant by the August 2023 deadline.
The council is one of 16 outer London boroughs that have supported the Mayor’s plans to expand the ultra low emissions zone into their areas, and already has 37 Ulez cameras installed on its streets.
But last July deputy council leader Katherine Dunne revealed in a letter to the Mayor that despite the council acting early, a number of its 400-strong fleet of vehicles would not be compliant in time for the Ulez rollout in the borough, which could result in a number of fines that would place further pressure on the authority’s budgets.
At the time, around 70 of the council’s vehicles were not yet Ulez compliant.
Ms Dunne said in the letter: “We have already invested in their replacement, yet supply chain challenges mean the earliest likely date for vehicle delivery is 2023-24.
“If there are any further delays in the market and supply, there will be insufficient time to make the fleet compliant before the proposed August 2023 rollout.”
Ms Dunne added: “If no dispensation is provided, we will be subject to Ulez penalties, putting further pressure on councils budgets.”
It also called on the mayor to extend exemptions for school transport vehicles, and to ensure that Hounslow and other boroughs would be given additional time to upgrade their fleets.
Conservative councillor Jack Emsley, who made the letter public, said: “It’s complete hypocrisy for Hounslow Council to back the Ulez expansion for hard working families and businesses whilst simultaneously asking for an exemption for themselves.
“It cannot be one rule for the Hounslow Labour party and another rule for the rest of us.”
The mayor plans to expand the Ulez zone to all London 32 boroughs by the end of August. Under the new rules, any vehicle that fails to meet European emission standards. This would usually include petrol cars more than 16 years old, and diesels more than six years old.
Auto Trader has previously raised concerns over whether the market could produce enough compliant cars to replace London’s estimated 200,000 non-compliant vehicles.
Analysis by the car marketplace estimated that there were only 5,150 compliant cars under £5,000 available on its platform which includes more than 900,000 car prices.
Moves to block cameras
Mr Khan’s expansion plans have led to widespread criticism from councils and politicians across London.
Of the 24 boroughs that will see Ulez expanded to cover the eight councils, seven Conservative-led and one Lib Dem-run authority have moved to block the installation of cameras across their borough.
Four of these boroughs have launched a judicial review to halt expansion, alongside Surrey County Council.
The expansion of Ulez is expected to hit drivers in Hounslow more than any other borough in London, with Transport for London’s own figures estimating that up to 42,000 motorists could be affected by the new charge – around 67 per cent of all vehicles.
Hounslow has so far allowed the expansion to continue but the letter from last summer raised considerable concerns about how it would impact drivers.
Included in this were concerns around public transport connections on the edges of the borough and the inability for most people in Hounslow to afford a compliant car.
In a statement to The Telegraph, Ms Dunne said the council was committed to its vehicles being compliant and was currently going through procurement to refresh its vehicle fleet.
She added: “During this period of transition alternative vehicle hires are being sourced until the delivery of the new vehicles.”