“Business is against environmental measures”. This argument is levelled at small businesses each and every time a new environmental change impacts London.
After an all encompassing consultation period, the Mayor announced that the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will come into force in 2020 – following on from the Low Emission Zone which came into operation in 2008. It will span the entire Congestion Charge Zone and for 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
And who will be affected? All cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses and heavy vehicles will need to meet emission standards (ULEZ standards) or pay an additional daily charge to travel within the zone.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) responded to the consultation and has raised varying concerns. In principle, The FSB supports measures to improving air quality and removing from the roads those vehicles which contribute disproportionately to air pollution.
No responsible business organisation can condone the use of excessively “filthy” engines. However, we are concerned about the need to ensure that any improvements in air quality are not achieved at a disproportionately high cost to business – with damaging consequences for jobs, business viability and the economy as a whole.
Recent research by the FSB has shown that in terms of infrastructure impediments, London is the sixth costliest city for small businesses to carry out business activities in, when compared to major cities in 23 other countries.
The FSB is concerned that for a heavy diesel engine vehicle which is not compliant with new standards for both the Low Emission Zone and the Ultra Low Emission Zone (in 2020) and is driven within Congestion Charge hours, three charges could have to be paid in one day.
We are pleased that the Mayor is giving due diligence to the affects of the policy on the Taxi and Private Hire sector. As it stands, reducing the age limit for all non-zero emission capable taxis from 2020 from 15 to 10 years could have unintended consequences.
Many drivers may be forced into an ever increasing rental sector, which could lead to significant cost increases and ultimately an increase in fares that will affect the public.
The FSB believe the argument for another charge must be considered in the full infrastructural round. An innovative new demand managed transport system must be introduced sooner rather than later with the population increases expected over the next decade.
We are calling for a ‘root and branch’ feasibility study for a new and improved scheme to replace the Congestion Charge, Low Emission Zone [and intended Ultra Low Emission Zone] that takes account of measures such as the zoning area itself, environmental impacts and on/off-peak entrance into the congestion charge zone.
Congestion in London damages the competitiveness of businesses in the city and the FSB supports a demand based approach in the capital, however, fairness is critical to small businesses that need to compete with their larger counterparts.
The time has come for a grown up debate as to whether the current charging mechanisms, and future mechanisms, will do more harm than good to London’s competitiveness.
It is our opinion that these blunt instruments have disproportionate impacts on smaller businesses and that TfL and The Mayor of London should act now before more small businesses are priced out of London.
Sue Terpilowski OBE is London Policy Chair at the Federation of Small Businesses