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Small Businesses Express Backlash Towards ULEZ Expansion

The Federation of Small Businesses has issued a stark warning against the upcoming expansion of London’s ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ), labelling it a potential disaster for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

The expansion, described as “heavy-handed,” is set to roll out across all 32 London boroughs tonight, from midnight.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, hails the expansion as a pivotal moment for the city, asserting that it will enhance air quality and avert thousands of premature pollution-related deaths. Critics, however, have questioned the validity of Mr. Khan’s claims, citing perceived bias in the scientific data he bases them on.

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The extended ULEZ will enforce a daily fee of £12.50 for vehicles failing to meet emissions standards. Those evading payment could face a £180 penalty, reduced to £90 if settled within two weeks. A study indicates that this expansion might adversely impact the economy by up to £369 million annually.

Fair Implementation ‘Vital’

Michael Lloyd, London infrastructure lead for the Federation of Small Businesses, stressed the necessity of a fair implementation: “To go heavy-handed at launch, during a cost of doing business crisis, would be disastrous.” He emphasised that clear communication of the new policy and support for retrofitting were essential.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr. Lloyd added: “The smallest firms are often the hardest to reach and so communicating the funds in the clearest possible way, in particular for those with light vans who are keen to retrofit, remains paramount. From our experiences with other major public policy and scheme changes, it is vital that the mayor and TfL adopt a safe harbour approach to the early stages of the ULEZ expansion.”

The news comes just days after a prominent lawyer warned that the absence of Transport for London (TfL) ULEZ signs on the outskirts of London, could lead to a surge in successful challenges from drivers.

Although Mr. Khan offers a scrappage scheme and grace period for non-compliant vehicles, concerns have arisen over the scheme’s complexity and the limited options for retrofitting within the M25 area. To avoid the ULEZ charge, motorists are resorting to creative measures like renting driveways for parking.

In a recent protest, a caravan emblazoned with ULEZ protest slogans appeared outside Mr. Khan’s residence. Other groups have taken more illegal measures, such as the Blade Runner group, who warned that their activity in chopping down ULEZ cameras would escalate if their demands were not met.

Tory MPs Express Concerns

Tory MPs have also expressed fears over the ULEZ’s economic repercussions and impact on work patterns. Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned that the scheme might induce more people to work from home, which could further reduce productivity. Theresa Villiers, former environment secretary, underscores the potential decrease in quality of life due to added costs and reduced mobility.

Former Tory leader and MP for Chingford and Wood Green, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, raised concerns over the scheme’s impact on productivity and potential rise in remote work.

Speaking to the Telegraph, he said: “I already think too many people, particularly civil servants, work from home at the moment. One of the reasons for our low productivity is people are working at home.”

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