The £255M black hole in ULEZ's accounts amid drivers' 'revolt'

The £255M black hole in ULEZ’s accounts: Sadiq Khan’s hated scheme was owed more money than it made last year amid drivers’ ‘revolt’ – as Tory councils make bid to quash London Mayor’s controversial expansion

  • Ulez was owed more money than it made in 2022, new data has revealed 

The controversial Ulez scheme was owed more money than it made last year amid a drivers’ ‘revolt’, a court has heard, as five Tory councils make a legal bid to block its expansion.

Drivers are refusing to pay penalty notices, leaving Ulez with a huge £255 million black hole, the Telegraph reports.

The London Mayor’s flagship scheme has caused backlash amongst drivers who resent having to pay a daily £12.50 fare in order to drive cars which do not meet strict environmental standards.

But Sadiq Khan is currently seeking to extend the Ulez to cover all London boroughs, which has sparked outrage from Conservative-controlled councils, who claim the scheme’s consultation documents are ‘not sufficiently clear’ for the expansion to go ahead.

Five Conservative-run councils, Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon and Surrey, are attempting to quash the London Mayor’s plans to expand the capital’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) into outer London at the High Court.

Anti-Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) protesters demonstrate outside the High Court in London on Tuesday

The London Mayor’s flagship scheme has caused backlash amongst drivers who resent having to pay a daily £12.50 fare in order to drive cars which do not meet strict environmental standards

In another problem for Sadiq Khan and Transport for London, which operates the scheme, it was revealed on Wednesday that drivers have not paid penalty notices amounting to more than £255 million in 2022.

This surpassed the scheme’s revenues, which totalled almost £225m million, of which £73.3 million came from penalty notices. 

The figures have been described as a ‘driver revolt’, and Conservative MP Karl McCartney said the amount of unpaid fines shows ‘the sheer numbers of drivers who must have made a conscious decision to no longer be ripped off by Sadiq Khan’.

He continued: ‘[It] makes any rational person realise that these numbers show a large number of drivers revolting on the Ulez scheme and refusing to pay.’

The new data comes amid a tense High Court legal battle over the planned expansion’s legality. The plans are due to come into force on August 29.

Craig Howell Williams KC, representing the councils today criticised the consultation period and information provided to the public over the expansion.

He told the London court: ‘The issue here is the simple question of whether or not there was enough information for intelligent responses from the public as well as from expertise. Modelling can be complex.

‘Can we conclude that this is a sufficiently clear presentation of the points, or was there unintentional obfuscation going on here?’

‘One can safely conclude this was not sufficiently clear.’

Mr Howell Williams addressed the potential financial impact of the proposals saying the mayor ‘needs to have some assessment in terms of addressing the impact’.

Earlier he had argued that the ‘unintelligibility of consultation materials as to how compliance rates were calculated rendered the consultation process unfair and unlawful’.

David Jaffey KC, defending the mayor, has said there was more than sufficient information to enable an intelligent response on how it had forecast the compliance rates.

Protesters, including one holding a coffin labelled ‘democracy’, outside the High Court on Tuesday

The mayor is running a £110m scrappage scheme which is open to certain businesses and individuals in London to secure financial support to exchange their non-compliant vehicles.

The councils also claimed that the mayor was unaware of the key details of the scrappage scheme, including the eligibility criteria.

The hearing was adjourned with a judgement not expected until later this month.

Christina Calderato, TfL’s director of strategy and policy, said: ‘London has made significant progress over the last six years in improving air quality, but it sadly remains the case that thousands of Londoners die prematurely each year as a result of toxic pollution. 

‘We know that air pollution contributes to life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma. The expansion of the ULEZ London-wide is vital in tackling the triple challenges of air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion, and will help millions more people breathe cleaner air.

‘The ULEZ has already made a significant difference. Since its launch in 2019, the ULEZ has helped cut the number of older, polluting vehicles on the road and helped to reduce harmful nitrogen oxides by 46 per cent in central London and by more than a fifth in inner London. 

‘Particulate matter levels have also continued to reduce across London, with a 41 per cent reduction in central and inner London since 2017.

‘TfL pursues payments for all penalties we issue both in the UK and overseas but we would rather no one needed to pay the charge. 

‘Any net revenues raised by the ULEZ are reinvested into running and improving London’s transport network, such as expanding bus routes in outer London. 

‘A successful larger ULEZ is one that leads to cleaner air and generates ever smaller net revenues or surpluses, as has been the case with the previous expansion to inner London where people switched to greener vehicles and more public and sustainable forms of transport, such as walking and cycling.’

The London Mayor’s office has been contacted for comment. 

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