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Evening Standard Comment: More cash is needed to make London Ulez work

Eleanor Bentall
S

omething changed last year when nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah from Lewisham became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death.

Public Health England calls air pollution “the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK”, and links it to 36,000 deaths a year. Yet for too long dirty air took a backseat to other important environmental concerns. No more.

But how we clamp down on air pollution in a city like London remains controversial. The extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone to the boundaries of the North and South Circular roads from October 25 is a case in point. Roughly one in five vehicles in the newly expanded area is at present liable to pay the daily charge of £12.50 for cars and motorbikes and £100 for lorries and coaches.

Buying a new vehicle is a major expense at the best of times. For many families and small businesses, buffeted by the pandemic, it will be even harder.

This newspaper has consistently campaigned to clean up London’s air. We launched the Clean Air Project in 2018 to get London going faster on electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. But we recognise that many people face little choice other than to use their older, more polluting cars.

That is why more support is necessary. Yet two of the three scrappage schemes set up by the Mayor to help small businesses, charities and low-income Londoners were forced to shut last year after running out of money.

With the October deadline fast approaching, help is needed now. The Mayor must work with the Government to find the funds to help more people switch to cleaner vehicles, so that the transitional costs of a greener city do not disproportionately fall on those less able to pay.