Sadiq Khan’s decision to bring forward the Ultra-Low Emission Zone’s start date by 12 months risks plunging small firms into “significant financial hardship” according to the Federation of Small Businesses.
Plans for the ULEZ were inherited from former Mayor Boris Johnson who planned for the scheme, which charges owners of polluting vehicles entering central London a daily fee, to come into effect in 2020.
Mr Khan, who has made tackling London’s poor air quality one of the key priorities of his mayoralty, wants to start the scheme one year earlier and is currently consulting with stakeholders.
In their submission to the consultation, the FSB says they back the ULEZ and its aims but “are opposed” to bringing the start date forward as many firms have entered into vehicle leases based on the original 2020 date.
The lobbying group warns moving the date would leave many locked into contracts for vehicles which fall short of the emissions levels set for the zone, meaning they’d have to pay high fees to end the agreements or risk paying the ULEZ charge which starts at £130 for cars, vans and minibuses.
If the Mayor decides to push ahead with his earlier start date, the FSB says affected traders should benefit from the same three year ‘sunset period’ and 90 per cent discount that TfL plans to offer residents in the scheme’s catchment area.
Sue Terpilowski OBE, London Policy Chair, FSB, said: “Micro and small businesses are becoming more environmentally conscious by the day, however, they face disproportionately higher costs than medium and large-sized ones in carrying out business activities.
“We do not want to see tradesmen, coach companies, construction business owners or market traders refusing to serve London, which is why transport policy in London needs to recognise the difference between essential and non-essential journeys.”
Warnings that he risks creating financial harm to London’s essential SME sector are likely to prove uncomfortable for Mr Khan who has repeatedly vowed to be the ‘most pro-business’ Mayor ever.