Sadiq Khan gave a speech on Monday in which he said that while some Londoners had “genuine concerns”, others had “latched on to the ULEZ to push their own agenda”. He said: “This includes a relatively small but well organised group of climate deniers and vested interests who are playing the genuine concerns of Londoners because they sense an opportunity to put a dent in the drive towards greater climate action”. See report here: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/climate-change-deniers-emboldened-ulez-215221307.html
This is of course a gross distortion of the truth. Opposing the ULEZ expansion has nothing to do with your views on climate change. The ULEZ is claimed to tackle air pollution (but it won’t help in outer London) and there is no basis for arguing it will tackle climate change. Only the misinformed will be fooled by this nonsense. The ULEZ is solely about raising tax to cover TfL and the Mayor’s financial mismanagement.
The Conservative Party seem to have finally realised that the ULEZ expansion is a great platform on which to attack Sadiq Khan. They are promoting a petition which has already been signed by over 70,000 people. Please add your name! See https://action.conservatives.com/stop-drivers-tax/
The Times has reported that “Bike sales fall to lowest level in 20 years” and the boom has become a bust. Bike sales have dipped to their lowest level in two decades. It suggests many people have lost their appetite for cycling, perhaps not surprising after a cold, wet winter. The boom during the pandemic has disappeared.
This is undermining the Government’s commitment to grow “active” travel and the hundreds of millions of pounds being spent on encouraging cycling has been a waste of money. However the Government did cut funding to Active Travel England by more than £200 million recently which was surely a wise decision when the Government is so short of money and there are big demands for money for the NHS, for defence and support of social programmes to limit the impact of energy price rises.
The money spent on cycle lanes is particularly problematic as they can increase traffic congestion and do not improve cycling safety. In fact the more people who cycle the more road traffic accidents involving cyclists there are, thereby increasing casualties. The increase in potholes has also had a negative impact on cycling.
There is another demonstration against the expansion of the ULEZ on this coming Saturday at Trafalgar Square (the 18th March at midday). Please attend if you can.
There have been a number of reports of another way people have been demonstrating their opposition to the ULEZ enforcement cameras that are being installed – by damaging them. This is what happens when legitimate protests are ignored so we won’t be condemning this activity.
It is of course now very clear that the additional cameras were ordered before the public consultation was even commenced which shows how Sadiq Khan and TfL never had any intention of listening.
Apart from the two legal actions being pursued against the expansion, the Conservative Party is also organising local protest groups in each affected borough and setting up Facebook groups. For example there is one for Bromley residents named “Bromley say no to ULEZ expansion” which already has over 2,000 members. Why not join?
The good news is that a legal challenge to removal of the Kensington High Street cycle lanes by Better Streets (they should be called Worse Streets) was thrown out in the High Court. See https://tinyurl.com/25c8dncv for details.
The Government has responded to a petition we promoted to our readers calling for an independent review of LTNs after it collected more than 10,000 signatures. They have appointed the University of Westminster to undertake an independent evaluation of active travel schemes funded in 2020/21, including low-traffic neighbourhoods. See https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/632748?reveal_response=yes for the full Government response.
What’s wrong with that? Namely that it’s not an “independent” review because one of the most active promoters of LTNs is Prof. Rachel Aldred of Westminster University who is also a Director of the Active Travel Academy. She has published a number of reviews of active travel schemes and cycling, mostly quite biased ones and is a former trustee of the London Cycling Campaign. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Aldred for more background.
On the political front an enormous amount of media coverage of late is on the small boat crisis and the attempts by the Government to halt illegal immigrants. These are mostly economic migrants, not people fleeing war or other disasters.
It is suggested that the proposed Government legislation would be illegal, because it contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights and the Refugee Convention. The latter was established in 1951 to help people made homeless or stateless by the Second World War and was a very positive move at the time. But it was never intended to enhance the rights of economic migrants who wish to move to a wealthier country.
I suggest that a breach of a Convention is not necessarily illegal and that the UK can withdraw from Conventions whenever it considers it necessary to do so. The country is being swamped by migrants, both legal and illegal ones. This is putting enormous pressure on housing and social services.
For example the London Borough of Lewisham have recently published a new “Local Plan” and it reports these statistics: The population has grown by 23% over the last 20 years and is still growing rapidly. Some 46% of the residents identify as BAME heritage which rises to 76% for the school population. This shows the impact of uncontrolled immigration over the last 50 years, but the Council is still “planning for an open Lewisham”. That’s undefined but suggests that they are open to even more migration.
The BBC, as is now commonplace, spouts the views of left-wing commentators including that of a well-known footballer for no good reason. His views on football may be sound but he does not understand the problem of illegal immigrants. At least the BBC have now brought him into line to stop him issuing injudicious tweets based on his own political opinions.
Will the Government be able to halt the flow of illegal immigrants? Only if they take a very tough stance in my view.
Other news last week was the conviction of a electric scooter rider for causing the death of a pedestrian. The judge said: “Pavements are for pedestrians and people in wheelchairs or infants in prams. They are supposed to be free of vehicles of any type. This mode of transport should not be there. This tragic incident was avoidable”. See full BBC report here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-64892358
But we will no doubt see many more such cases unless scooter riding is curbed.
The Government has responded negatively to the Parliament Transport Committee on road pricing with these words: “……. as set out in the Chancellor’s previous letter the Government does not currently have plans to consider road pricing. Given this, the Government does not have further views on the Committee’s recommendations for the ways in which road pricing should be considered. More broadly, as noted previously the Government will need to ensure that the tax system encourages the uptake of EVs, and revenue from motoring taxes will need to keep pace with this change, while remaining affordable for consumers. Our tax system has already begun to adapt to this transition. From 2025, electric cars, vans and motorcycles will pay Vehicle Excise Duty in the same way as petrol and diesel vehicles. The Government will continue to keep all tax policy under review.”
An article in the Sunday Times by Nicholas Hellen has explained how Oxfordshire County Council was bribed with £33 million of Government funding to install the planned traffic filters. Installing the filters was conditional on funding for 159 electric buses and the Council committed to go ahead six months before a public consultation took place.
Under the proposed scheme residents will need to apply for a permit to pass through six pinch points but will be restricted to 100 days per year or be fined £70. The allocation of Government funding was explicitly linked to a written pledge to introduce the scheme.
At the People’s Question Time in Ealing on 2/3/2023 the Mayor of London showed just what he will do to try and push through his ULEZ policies. He made a number of outrageous allegations about those who oppose expansion including that they are covid and vaccine deniers and are associated with the “far right”. See video here: https://fb.watch/j1rLkjfuto/
He got a severe barracking from the audience and quite rightly. The protesters inside and outside the hall might have been a mixed bunch of people but it is ridiculous to suggest they were extreme conspiracy theorists. It is malicious nonsense for Sadiq Khan to suggest that those who oppose the ULEZ expansion are extremists of any kind.
On a personal note, I have been campaigning against the ULEZ expansion but I certainly don’t deny the benefit of covid vaccinations – I have had 5.
To back up Sadiq Khan, the Labour Leader of Ealing Council Peter Mason said this on Twitter: “The protest outside Peoples Question Time at Ealing Town Hall tonight wasn’t an expression of freedom of speech. People from outside our borough came to our streets to spread racism, intimidation and hatred. This isn’t democracy, this is barbarism”.
Again a false demonisation of those protesting. The protesting certainly had nothing to do with racism and all that Sadiq Khan and Peter Mason have done is to stir up hatred with unfounded allegations.
What is politics coming to when such people are allowed to generate divisions based on false claims?
There was a good turnout at the demonstration against the ULEZ extension yesterday (25/02/2023). See photo above. It got some media coverage on TV channels and in papers such as the Daily Mail.
The BBC have reported, based on data analysed by the Liberal Democrats, that more than 1.5 million people living outside London could be impacted by the new London-wide Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Data from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) also suggests 30% of vehicles in the UK do not come within the emission limits of ULEZ. The Liberal Democrats, which analysed the data, is calling for a scrappage scheme for across the South East.
Comment: Drivers living outside the expanded ULEZ zone will be taxed when they have no say in the election of the Mayor of London or his policies. This is unjust. Central Government need to rectify this injustice. Scrappage schemes are not the solution as they only help a small minority of people.
The Government has responded to the petition we encouraged people to sign (which read “Hold a referendum on removing the London Assembly and London Mayor”). It received over 45,000 signatures.
The Government response was:
“The Government believes that directly elected mayors provide strong and accountable governance locally; devolved transport policies are best determined through local democracy and elections.
The Government believes that with the right incentives and strong accountability directly elected mayors can provide valuable local leadership. This leads to more joined-up public services and better outcomes for local communities. A directly elected mayor is the strongest, most transparent and most accountable form of local government leadership.
As the Housing Minister made clear in the House of Commons on 20 February 2023, effective devolution requires local leaders and institutions that are transparent and accountable. This is why the Government will be publishing a devolution accountability framework later this year setting out accountability mechanisms for mayoral authorities such as the GLA. It will set out how they are scrutinised and held to account by the UK Government, local politicians and business leaders – and above all by the residents and voters of their area.
This work will be supported by planned improvements to the broader local government accountability framework including the establishment of the Office for Local Government.
The Greater London Authority, office of the Mayor of London and London Assembly were established following a referendum held in Greater London on 7 May 1998 in which 72% of those voting expressed their support for proposals. The Government has no current plans to review the core provisions of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (as amended).
The expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone across London is a devolved matter and the primary responsibility of the Mayor of London and Transport for London.
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities”
Comment: a not unexpected if disappointing response. It ignores the fact that the Mayor of London is unaccountable to anyone and has ignored widespread complaints about his actions on expanding the ULEZ and on many other issues. Londoners will not get the opportunity to remove him until the elections next year and he is already bribing the electorate with our own money to try and win re-election (free school meals for children is the latest hand-out).
Directly elected Mayors only provide a sound basis for local government if those elected adhere to sound moral principles and listen to the public. What we have in London is someone who has let power go to his head and now acts like a dictator. He is using every political trick in the book to denigrate his opponents to remain in power, including repeated lies.
This should not be allowed to continue and Government ministers should have more backbone.
Low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), so called “clean air zones” and new, underused cycle lanes are all deeply unpopular. So much so that a new petition has recently appeared on the UK Parliament website (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/633504 ) demanding a revision to the statutory guidance that brought them in. Instead of there being a presumption they remain, local authorities (which would include the Mayor of London) should be required to remove them, unless, within three months, they can show there is more than 50% public support, using broad, unbiased, independent, local opinion research.
The petition expresses deep frustration that many recently introduced traffic schemes, often justified by bogus green claims, have, by reducing road space, caused gridlock, increased pollution on busy roads, generated £ millions in fines and charges and been implemented with little or no local approval.
Exacerbated by failure properly to consult residents, they have also caused bitterness and division in local communities; increased response times of emergency vehicles and disadvantaged the most vulnerable in society, who can’t walk or cycle. Where consultation has taken place, there have been instances when the methodology has been biased, which is why the petition calls for unbiased, independent research to validate the retention of new traffic schemes.
David Tarsh, the petition promoter (pictured above) said: “These traffic schemes are the worst kind of greenwash, reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984; there’s a “safer cycle pathway” that is more dangerous, low traffic neighbourhoods that increase congestion, and extension of a clean air zone that will make a negligible improvement in air quality. The hidden agenda is an extortion racket based on demonising motorists and exploiting them for cash, under the cover of claiming to save the planet. The consequences are social division, economic damage, removal of liberty and discrimination against the least fortunate. They are counterproductive and the way they have been introduced is deeply corrupt.”
Sections 16-18 of the Traffic Management Act, place a duty on local authorities to secure the expeditious movement of traffic on their road networks. However, in May 2020, during the pandemic, the then Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, launched a £250m active travel fund to promote walking and cycling. It was justified on the basis that with a 2m social distancing rule, public transport could only accommodate 10% of its usual capacity on many parts of the network; so, people would need to be encouraged to walk and cycle. New statutory guidance, conflicting with sections 16-18 of the Act, told local authorities to reallocate road space to walking and cycling, with a view to making the new schemes permanent. Furthermore, the assumption should be that they will be retained unless there is substantial evidence to the contrary.
Just five months later, the Daily Mail ran a headline saying. “Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admits too many new cycle lanes are ‘unused’ leaving streets ‘backed up’ with traffic as he warns councils over increase in road closures… even though the routes were built using £250m fund HE unveiled”. Subsequently, some cycle lanes were dismantled. However, others remained, as did the statutory guidance.
Last October, The Times reported that councils, which implemented low-traffic neighbourhoods during the pandemic, had seen bigger increases in car use than boroughs that did not. While this is compelling evidence that LTNs have contributed to congestion, they have not been dismantled.
Earlier this month, the Telegraph revealed that the new cycleway through Hammersmith, which the local council claims to be “safer”, is actually more dangerous, with the rate of cycle accidents increasing more than three-fold since it was built!
Many LTNs and other pandemic traffic schemes were introduced as “temporary” under Experimental Traffic Orders but despite those orders expiring and social distancing measures no longer being in force, the schemes they approved have not been removed.
All over the UK, there is widespread anger at LTNs and other traffic schemes, with many attracting thousands of signatures objecting to them. Anti LTN petitions online include Ealing, over 12,000; Enfield, over 7,000; Haringey, over 7,000; Islington, over 11,000; Lewisham, over 13,000; Oxford, over 15,000; Birmingham, over 5,000; South Fulham, over 9,000; Tooting, over 12,000.
The most unpopular LTN in the UK is London’s ultra low emission zone (ULEZ), which the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wants to extend from the North Circular Road to the M25. His plan has attracted over 240,000 objections on Change.org and a judicial review backed by five London councils. The mayor’s own impact assessment says that there would be no health benefits from the expansion and almost no air quality benefits, yet he is keen to press ahead anyway, in the face of substantial public opposition. Around two thirds of respondents to Transport for London’s (TFL’s) own consultation were against the expansion and the degree of opposition was much higher amongst those in outer London.
The full text of the petition is below:
Require councils remove LTNs and underused bike lanes that lack public support
Require local authorities (LAs) remove low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and underused bike lanes that lack public support. Change guidance from assuming they remain to requiring removal, unless, in 3 months, the LA can show > 50% approval, using broad, unbiased, independent, local opinion research.
There’s widespread anger at LTNs and other congesting traffic schemes but LAs are not removing them due to statutory guidance and the money they make.
Many were built with no proper consultation as a pandemic measure; but it is over.
We believe these schemes, often justified by doubtful green claims, undermine the law obliging LAs to expedite traffic flow; and create social division, ghettos, gridlock and local economic damage.
The attack on liberty and persecution of motorists is unfair and must stop. If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the government will respond to it. If it reaches 100,000 it is considered for a debate in Parliament.