The clever ULEZ ‘loophole’ to avoid Sadiq Khan’s detested £12.50 charge

Angela Rayner admits ULEZ is coming to every town

The brainchild of Boris Johnson back when he was Mayor of London, the ULEZ is designed to reduce harmful emissions in the UK’s capital city.

Across the UK, harmful roadside nitrogen oxide emissions have halved since 1997, in large part thanks to cleaner engines. High traffic levels in the densely populated capital, however, mean air quality there is of particular concern.

The ULEZ charge today consists of a £12.50 fee per day for non-compliant vehicles.

In 2021, Sadiq Khan expanded the boundaries established by his predecessor out to the North and South Circulars. From August 29, it is set to cover all of London’s boroughs, unless Labour force their man to shelve the plan.

Last week’s by-election results were a clear indication that affected voters weren’t on-board with the toll. Even if it goes ahead, however, there’s a clever way some people can get out of paying.

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Petrol cars must meet Euro 4 standards, generally the case for all those made after January 2006. For diesel cars, the threshold for ULEZ compliance is set at Euro 6 standards, most commonly applying to all cars made after September 2015.

The upcoming expansion is expected to impact 200,000 drivers, with many arguing it will have a disproportionate effect on the poor – who won’t be able to afford to buy new, compliant cars. 

However, people who own a vehicle over 40 years old – aside from not having to pay road tax – are also able to dodge the £12.50 fare.

This rule is applied on a rolling basis – currently applying to cars built pre-1983 – and so the list of charge-exempt cars grows every year. 

For many, it may be worth holding on to a really old banger instead of forking out for the latest model, but eligible applicants can get a scrappage payment.

Commercial vehicles face slightly more stringent rules, and generally have to have been registered before January 1973 to be exempt.

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According to the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (LAEI), road transport is the biggest contributor to the capital’s poor air quality.

Pollution has been linked to increased instances of cancer, asthma and lung disease, as well as a heightened risk of dementia in older people. 

Back in November, Mr Khan claimed around 4,000 Londoners died prematurely each year as a result of “long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs”. 

In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, however, residents of the outer boroughs have been pushing back hard against ULEZ charges being imposed on them.

In Mr Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in West London, Conservative candidate Steve Tuckwell defied expectations of a Labour resurgence to win the seat by a slender margin of 465 votes.

In his victory speech, he said: “The message from Uxbridge and South Ruislip is clear – Sadiq Khan has lost Labour this election, and it was his damaging and costly ULEZ policy that did it.”

Senior Labour politicians echoed this verdict throughout Friday, including Deputy Leader Angela Rayner and Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed. 

Following a conversation with Sir Keir Starmer later that day, Mr Khan is reportedly open to ideas to mitigate the financial burden on residents.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove warned against “treating the cause of the environment as a religious crusade” and called for some net zero measures to be reviewed.

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