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.
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:
Both the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail have reported that the Government may block the expansion of the ULEZ to outer London. It is suggested they could use Section 143 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. This gives the Secretary of State the power to veto the Mayor of London’s policies which are inconsistent with national transport policies (see https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1999/29/section/143 ).
Paul Scully, Transport Minister, has argued that as the ULEZ affects many people who live outside of London itself. He said “It affects a whole load of people in Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire who didn’t get a say on it. It is taxation without representation”.
Comment: Whether Section 143 of the Act gives the requisite power to block the Mayor is legally questionable in my view but it might be worth fighting in the Courts. However, and as I have said before, as ultimately the Government has the power to change the 1999 Act, they should threaten to do so. They could simply remove the ability to introduce or continue with charging schemes. Simply threatening to do so would put the Mayor in an impossible position because he would incur very substantial costs in building the camera network which would then not be recoverable.
The Government just needs to make some tough decisions and lay down the law on this issue instead of sitting on the fence and trying to please everyone.
There is another demonstration planned for the 25th February at 12.00 noon in Trafalgar Square. Please attend if possible.
Meanwhile the Mayor has been promoting the wonders of the existing ULEZ with this claim about a recent report: “Report shows that the ULEZ has reduced harmful pollution levels in central London by nearly half compared to what they would have been without the ULEZ”.
This report only looks at one year, a year affected by the pandemic, and does not separate out the impact of tighter restrictions on heavy vehicles under the LEZ scheme. Nor does it take into account the scrapping of older vehicles and replacement by lower emission new ones, nor the general improvement in home and commercial heating systems, nor the changes to London buses and to taxis. As usual it is using selective data to try to make a point. See https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2023-02/Inner%20London%20ULEZ%20One%20Year%20Report%20-%20final.pdf . It is irrelevant to the issue of whether expanding the ULEZ makes any sense.
There is a useful Parliamentary petition you can sign which reads: “Hold a referendum on removing the London Assembly and London Mayor. We believe too much power is in the hands of the London Assembly and London Mayor. We are particularly concerned about the impact of expanding the ULEZ on people who are struggling with a cost of living crisis to put food on the tables, keep kids clothed and fed while struggling to heat homes”. Please sign it here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/631763
There have been a lot of claims by Sadiq Khan about the deaths caused by air pollution in London so as to justify his expansion of the ULEZ but his claims are unsubstantiated by the evidence available.
I have a strong personal interest in this matter because my father died from lung disease (mesothelioma – a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos), my brother died from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (a lung disease for which there is no known cause) and I suffered from asthma when young due to allergies to pollen and other things. Anyone who has suffered from asthma or seen people die from lung disease will know how distressing it is.
It is known that air pollution can exacerbate asthma symptoms which I can confirm from my own personal experience but whether it can cause asthma is unclear. Even now I avoid walking behind London diesel buses! The onset of asthma can be triggered by many things and is a growing problem worldwide probably because of the change in lifestyles of the population and increased urbanisation. The largest source of air pollution is often in homes and offices and people spend more time in them and lead a sedentary life style as they become wealthier.
To attack air pollution in the hope that we can prevent all lung disease is misconceived. In particular to attack diesel/petrol cars in the hope of removing air pollution is a simplistic notion when there are multiple other sources of air pollution. If Sadiq Khan thinks he can cure his late-onset asthma (which he claims to have) then he is not living in the real world.
The air pollution sources in the UK in 2018 is given in the diagram above taken from a Public Health England report. Note that road transport only produces 12.4% of all PM 2.5 (particulate) emissions whereas residential and small commercial combustion produces 43.1%.
Note how over 50% of PM2.5 emissions in central London come from commercial cooking! That report also shows how emissions of particulates and NOX (nitrous oxides) have been falling rapidly across London. This is not just due to the ULEZ and Congestion Charge schemes which probably only had minor impacts but a general improvement in energy production, heating and industrial processes.
The Freedom for Drivers Foundation published this report in 2018 (revised in 2021) called “Air Quality and Vehicles: The Truth” – see Report . It provides a well-reasoned and unbiased analysis of the data unlike so many of the comments you see on this subject. The situation since it was published has no doubt improved even further.
There is simply no justification for extending the ULEZ scheme. The reduction in air pollution in Greater London would be miniscule – about 0.1% in the important PM2.5 emissions for example. Nobody is going to notice this and it won’t have any significant impact on health outcomes. See https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/09/07/ulez-expansion-assessment-a-complete-fraud/ for the independent analysis commissioned by TfL (Jacobs Report).
There are many things the London Mayor and the Government could do about air pollution but expanding attacks on vehicle owners is one of the least beneficial in terms of cost/benefits. Reducing wood burning is one which the Government has recently tackled for example.
Removing air pollution might have some long-term health benefits although the likely benefit is uncertain. Removing all of it might extend life by a few days but to do that we would have to remove all road, rail and air transport, remove all domestic gas boilers, close down all restaurants, ban cooking at home, cease all agriculture, cease all new building and building renovation, close down most of industry, etc. How lunatic would such a policy be!
I am all for improving air quality where it can be achieved at reasonable cost and with no negative consequences. But expanding the ULEZ scheme will increase the cost of living for many people when they are already suffering from high inflation. It is simply unjustified and Sadiq Khan’s motivation despite his blustering about the impact on health is clearly motivated by financial imperatives.
The BBC have reported that Sadiq Khan has given the London boroughs opposed to the ULEZ expansion an ultimatum to agree to the installation of enforcement cameras by today or he will push ahead regardless. He claims he has the legal powers to install them. But do local councils have powers to remove them in that case?
Meanwhile the boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Hillingdon and Harrow say they will not consent and have filed a pre-action protocol letter in anticipation of a judicial review citing these grounds:
1) They said the mayor exceeded his powers by treating the new zone as a “variation” of the existing ULEZ rather than presenting and consulting on a fresh stand-alone plan; 2) They are challenging City Hall’s estimates of how many people will be affected, along with financial analysis including the claim the new zone will raise £200m in its first year; and 3) The councils also claimed it was unlawful to exclude people living outside the capital – but driving inside – from the scrappage scheme that compensates people for getting rid of their polluting vehicles.
Comment: These claims may be correct but they need to put forward a much stronger case in my view if the ULEZ expansion is to be defeated. In summary the expansion is irrational, not justified on any cost/benefit analysis and the public consultation on it was fraudulent.
The activities of campaigns against the expansion of the ULEZ to outer London are growing as people realise the financial impact it will have.
There is an active Facebook group named “Action Against ULEZ Extension” which you can join and they are promoting a demonstration in Trafalgar Square on the 28th January (Saturday) at 12.00 noon. Please attend if you can.
[Postscript: The Trafalgar Square event has had to be postponed due to concerns about security. We will advise any new date on this blog when available].
Paul says “This new tax will hit thousands of hardworking people and small businesses, just when they can least afford it”. He’s certainly right there and remember it will have negligible impact on air quality. It’s just another tax to bail out Sadiq Khan’s financial mismanagement.
Sadiq Khan issued a tweet saying that “London has been ranked the 18th most polluted city in the world based on air quality, light pollution and traffic congestion”. But this is a lie and the tweet has subsequently been deleted.
London is nowhere near 18th most polluted city in the world, on any of these measures. IQair ranks London as the 3739th in the world on air pollution. It is ranked 55th out of just 404 cities on congestion, and the UN reports mean noise pollution as joint 28th out of the 61 cities measured. See https://order-order.com/2022/10/06/fact-check-khans-polluting-claims/ for more information.
It is regrettable that Sadiq Khan and his PR team find it necessary to scare the public in this way in support of his financially driven policies to extract more taxes from Londoners. There is simply no evidence that poor air quality is a major health problem in London.
We have said before that the Government could halt the planned expansion of the ULEZ. Thanks to one of our contacts for the following explanation of the legal position:
“The root cause of the problem is the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which was created during Tony Blair’s New Labour administration, along with the devolved Scottish and Welsh administrations.
Section 295 and schedule 23 of the GLA Act 1999 enables TFL, the Mayor and London Borough Councils to enforce their road user charging schemes such as congestion charge, ULEZ etc. See:
If you read the GLA Act 1999 carefully, the Secretary of State does have powers to veto/block road user charging schemes on the grounds of “the incompatibility is detrimental to the interests of persons resident in England outside Greater London.”
Part III, Chapter 1 and schedule 12 of the Transport Act 2000 enables local authorities outside of London (including Metro Mayors) to enforce their road user charging schemes such as Clean Air Zone (CAZ), Congestion Charge (for Cambridge) and traffic filter scheme (for Oxford)
I have written to Mark Harper, Secretary of State for Transport, pointing out he does have the power to block the ULEZ expansion and should do so. Also I have suggested that the Government should repeal the relevant clauses from the legislations to take road user charging powers away from the Mayors and local authorities, and even make road user charging powers illegal!
With a Conservative majority in the Commons they could also repeal the GLA Act 1999 which will then abolish the Mayor of London and transfer TFL back to Government control.
Sadiq Khan has issued a statement via TfL confirming that he is expanding the ULEZ to the whole of London in August 2023 (see link below). Any owners of non-compliant cars will be paying £12.50 per day, every day. This decision is despite the fact that it will have minimal impact on air pollution in London and that a major proportion of London residents oppose the change.
The Mayor has announced a scrappage scheme for some people (the disabled and those on means-tested benefits plus small businesses) but in reality very few people are likely to qualify for this support and it is unlikely to cover all the costs of changing vehicles.
The big danger is once the scheme is introduced with new cameras everywhere to enforce it the Mayor could decide to charge all vehicles driving in London which he has always wanted to do. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
The only way this move can be stopped is if the Government removes Sadiq Khan from power, or removes his ability to make these kinds of decisions. Please write to your M.P. on this – go to this web site to do that easily: https://www.writetothem.com/. DO IT NOW!
We have always argued that the ULEZ scheme was mainly about generating tax money for the Mayor of London, not about reducing air pollution. And so it has turned out to be based on an analysis by the RAC.
They report that the income from non-compliant vehicles was £112 million in the eight months after the scheme was expanded in November 2021 plus over £130 million in penalty charges from those who don’t pay.
Head of Roads Policy at the RAC said “The expansion of the ULEZ has resulted in a much-increased revenue stream for Transport for London, notwithstanding the costs associated with introducing the larger ULEZ. Londoners living outside the current ULEZ will now be worrying about the prospect of further expansion……While we accept that action is needed to reduce toxic emissions from vehicles, the cost-of-living crisis is hurting drivers in the pocket and there is a risk that further enlarging the zone will be hugely costly for those with older vehicles who can least afford to change them for something newer”.