It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. Too busy sorting out some technical problems and keeping up with medical issues – I just booked my seventh Covid vaccination which does not scare me. But I would like to comment on some topical issues.
Should Dominic Raab have been fired, or encouraged to resign, which is the same thing in reality? There is one simple question to answer which is “would you like to work for him as a boss?”. My answer would be an undoubted “no”.
Leaders who wish to get things done need to be popular to some extent at least if they wish to have people work hard and follow the policies laid down. You certainly can’t get people to do what you want by bullying them.
Raab was apparently warned several times about his behaviour so the final outcome was hardly unexpected. In any organisation, and Government is no different, you have to have consensus and leadership by example. If Raab could not get Civil Service staff to do what he wanted then he needed to change his approach.
My first technical problem was that BT and Microsoft decided to stop supporting POP email clients, for alleged security reasons after 20 years. That meant potentially losing access to thousands of older emails I have received over the last 15 years. No workarounds provided unless I paid them money. I am very unhappy about being treated in this way and Outlook on the web is not nearly as good as Outlook 2016 as a local client.
My latest technical problem was configuring and learning how to use a new Samsung smartwatch (a Galaxy 4). This is replacing an older Huawei smartwatch which did basic functions very well but was not really compatible with the Apple i-Phone I currently use. I don’t like Apple watches – too expensive and I prefer a more traditional design. The Galaxy watch is also incompatible but you have to read the very small print on their web site to discover that. You even need a Samsung phone to set it up which is ridiculous. The user interface is horribly complex and it’s taken me hours to learn all the functions and configure it. Watches should be installable in a few minutes, not hours, and all common phones should be supported.
That’s the rant over for today.
I was alerted by the new emergency phone alarm just now. I presume that’s in case Russia launches World War 3, and we get 3 minutes warning of a nuclear attack. Reminds me of the 1960s but most people decided then that there was not much to do in 3 minutes except hide under a table.
Meanwhile Sadiq Khan is pushing ahead with the ULEZ expansion despite widespread public opposition. Financially it makes no sense and it will make no difference to air quality in the outer London boroughs. There will be a legal challenge in the High Court in July but I am not very hopeful of a successful outcome. But it’s worth supporting anyway.
The only way you can remove idiots like Sadiq Kahn is at the ballot box.
As has been widely reported in the national media, a judge in the High Court has approved a full judicial review hearing of the case brought by 5 London Boroughs against the ULEZ expansion. But only on two of the five grounds put forward. The defective and misleading public consultation is not going to be considered which is disappointing. But it is a step forward nevertheless.
The case is likely to be heard in July. Sadiq Khan has vowed to push ahead with implementation including the installation of the thousands of extra enforcement cameras. So he could be wasting a lot of money, but that’s the way he manages the finances of TfL.
Even when the road is repaired it is not done properly so the potholes soon reappear. This is a problem nationally on motorways and major roads and also on local roads that are the responsibility of local councils (in London in the boroughs – who often use “Fix My Street” services – for Bromley see: https://fix.bromley.gov.uk/ ).
Even Bromley who have been good a fixing reported problems in previous years have got substantially worse in doing so of late.
If your vehicle is damaged from hitting a pothole you can submit a financial claim if someone has previously reported it so it is important to report all such problems!
Transport for London (TfL) have imposed 20 mph speed limits on a number of London’s main A roads. To quote from their press release: “20mph speed limits will be introduced across 28km of roads within the boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Haringey and Tower Hamlets from 31 March……TfL data shows 20mph speed limits are making London’s roads safer and have led to a 25 per cent reduction in deaths and serious injuries within the central London Congestion Charging Zone… Lower speed limits play a critical role in the Mayor’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate deaths and serious injury on the transport network”.
The data they provide to support these claims is both selective and inaccurate (see their press release below).
Their claims are grossly misleading about the benefit of 20 mph limits as other studies have shown no benefit. As we have pointed out before, Vision Zero is not working because it focuses too much on speed.
This is just another example of how the Mayor of London and certain boroughs plan to get rid of motorists altogether in London. The ULEZ expansion is also part of the plan. Cars are not being banned, just made unusable for many practical purposes. This is a typical diversionary tactic of politicians when banning something outright would be seen as totally unacceptable.
And just consider the plight of taxi/PHV drivers who could lose their licenses and jobs after being caught a few times for driving at 22 mph on TfL roads.
As evidence of how damaging the reign of Sadiq Khan has been to London’s road network, the table below gives the historic trends for average traffic speeds in London. It’s now less than 10 mph in central London!
The following is an article written by Michael Simons on the likely impact of the ULEZ expansion on the incidence of asthma. It is a very good summary of the causes of asthma and the negligible impact that the ULEZ will have on it.
What Impact Would ULEZ Expansion Have on Asthma and COPD Cases?
The Mayor of London does not justify his plan to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone to outer London by referring to the official Integrated Impact Assessment1 projections – the Impact Assessment forecasts only very small health benefits – instead, the Mayor relies on rhetoric and anecdotal stories, mainly centred around asthma, and childhood asthma in particular.
So what is known about asthma in London in the context of air pollution, and particularly pollution by nitrogen dioxide, NO2, the main target of ULEZ?
The Office of National Statistics, responding to a freedom of information request, gave the following numbers for total child asthma deaths in London2:
Aged under 1
1 to 4
5 to 9
There are multiple known causes and triggers for asthma, so most of this tiny number of cases may not have resulted from air pollution anyway. For instance, hot weather is a recognised aggravating factor, and 2018 had a particularly hot summer, which might account for the higher number that year. While every child’s death is an individual tragedy, in the administrative context of a population of over 9 million, these numbers are vanishingly small, and so would be any marginal improvement from ULEZ expansion.
A 2022 report from the Imperial College Environmental Research Group3 presents estimates of the number of hospital admissions for asthma. It states that:
“ Exacerbation of asthma by air pollution is estimated to lead to around 700 asthma admissions from 2017 – 2019 in children in London, 7% of all asthma admissions in children in London. (Asthma admissions may have more than one cause e.g. air pollution may worsen response to an allergen.)”
This was over 3 years, so the average annual number was 233. Note that, as stated, this number accounts for just 7% of child asthma admissions. Note also that the headline announcement by City Hall of 3600 child asthma admissions in 2021/22 referred to all-cause admissions, not pollution-exacerbated admissions. (Asthma has many causes and triggers, including indoor pollution, mould, dust mite, household chemicals, outdoor pollution, pollen, cold weather, hot weather, and hereditary factors – see the Appendix). This is an important distinction to bear in mind.
The Imperial College report also gives an estimate of the percentage change in admissions per 10 µg m-3 change of pollutant concentration. For nitrogen dioxide, NO2, and children aged 0-14, this value is 3.9% per 10 µg m-3 (p11 of the report).
The likely reduction in NO2 levels from expansion of ULEZ into outer London is not clear. The Integrated Impact Assessment gives a reduction of 6.9% in emissions, and a 1.4% reduction in NO2 level when population-weighted. For simplicity and transparency in the arithmetic, we will illustrate the reduction in admissions expected from a 10% decrease in NO2 levels in outer London, well above those estimates.
Roadside levels4 (within 5 metres of a busy main road) of NO2 in October 2022 were 28 µg m-3, and background levels (away from busy traffic) levels were 19 µg m-3. Most residents in outer London live well away from busy main roads, so we will adopt an effective value of 22 µg m-3.
A 10% notional ULEZ reduction is a reduction of 2.2 µg m-3. Since a 10 µg m-3 reduction in NO2 level is estimated to reduce child asthma emissions by 3.9%, the ULEZ reduction in NO2 level will bring about a proportionate reduction in admissions of 2.2/10×3.9 = 0.86%.
0.86% of 233 gives a reduction of just TWO hospital admissions per year across the whole of London.
And note we are talking about hospital admissions, not deaths.
The numbers associated with the 15 – 64 year age group in the report are lower all round and give a much smaller result, so we will not report further on these.
For the over 65 age group asthma was combined with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) because it is difficult to clinically distinguish between the two conditions. In this case, the report estimates 900 admissions over the 3 years, or 300 cases per year. For COPD/asthma in the over-64’s the percentage change in admissions per 10 µg m-3 change of pollutant concentration was estimated at 1.42%. The same NO2 levels apply as before.
Applying the same process as above, the % reduction in admissions will be 2.2/10×1.42 = 0.31%. 0.31% of 300 = 0.94, or rounding up, ONE less admission per year across the whole of London.
The Jacobs Integrated Impact Assessment1 considered the decrease in health burden expected from expanding the ULEZ zone. It did not give estimates for asthma hospital admissions, only “incidences” (undefined). However it did give estimates for Respiratory Hospital Admissions, a term which includes asthma, and in Table 6-2, p73, it estimates that the extended ULEZ scheme would reduce annual London- wide hospital admissions from 2122 to 2086, a decrease of 26 cases or 1.2%.
A decrease of 26 cases across a city of over 9 million people is still a very small number. There are 33 boroughs in Greater London, so that averages out at less than one hospital admission fewer per borough per year. Again, a negligible benefit.
There appears to be no credible evidence that the expansion of the ULEZ into outer London would produce anything more than insignificant health benefits in asthma – or other respiratory diseases for that matter. We identify in this report three separate and credible sources which point to the negligible benefits which might be expected.
Vague statements and political histrionics about suffering children are a misleading way to inform public policy in this area. Proper analysis is required, especially when the policy carries heavy costs for society, as ULEZ certainly does. And these analyses point to ULEZ expansion doing effectively nothing for asthma.
The NHS information sheet on asthma states:
The exact cause of asthma is unknown.
People with asthma have swollen (inflamed) and “sensitive” airways that become narrow and clogged with sticky mucus in response to certain triggers.
Genetics, pollution and modern hygiene standards have been suggested as causes, but there’s not currently enough evidence to know if any of these do cause asthma.
Who’s at risk
A number of things can increase your chances of getting asthma. These include:
The following is an article written by Richard Walker which explains the likely impact of the ULEZ expansion on life expectancy.
ULEZ EXPANSION COULD INCREASE LIFE EXPECTANCY BY 2.4 DAYS – MAYBE!
Yes, instead of 81 years, or 29,565 days, it could rise to 29,567 days, an increase of 0.008% !!!!
Mayor Khan has been reluctant to put numbers to the health benefits of expanding ULEZ to outer London, but a report by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, COMEAP NO2 2018 (Google it) reveals on page 69 that a 1 μg/m3 reduction in NO2 emissions should increase life expectancy by 8 days.
The official Jacobs Integrated Impact Assessment estimates (p47) that ULEZ expansion will reduce NO2 pollutant levels by just 0.3 μg/m3 in outer London. 0.3 x 8 = 2.4, so that gives a 2.4 day lifetime increase thanks to ULEZ, or + 0.008%.
Thank you, Mr Khan, but in no way can that pathetic benefit justify the pain your scheme will inflict on us.
Khan’s repetitive public statements about NO2 hazards are based on a health burden report which in turn is based on the COMEAP report published in 2018 where there was no consensus on the details and which is now out of date, plus the Jacobs Impact Assessment for the ULEZ.
The following diagram shows the overall financial impact of the ULEZ expansion:
How many people will be affected by the ULEZ expansion to outer London? This is an important question. Sadiq Khan claims only one in ten drivers (160,000 vehicles) will be affected based on counting non-compliant cars driving in London. But this is grossly misleading probably because it includes PHV/Uber cars which drive high mileages within London.
The RAC has reported the true figures. They claim nearly 700,000 cars registered in London will be affected which rises to 850,000 if vans are included. That does not even include the vehicles registered elsewhere that drive into London for commuting, shopping, etc.
These are enormous numbers and indicates the massive financial costs being imposed on potentially millions of people who will be either paying £12.50 per day or need to spend thousands of pounds on a new vehicle.
Yet again we have the Mayor of London grossly misleading people and telling porkies in his desperation to get public support for the ULEZ expansion.
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/
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.
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?