Sadiq Khan’s not making friends with the business community says Charlie Mullins OBE

Columnists | Energy & Low Carbon Industry | Growth
Charlie Mullins OBE
Charlie Mullins OBE

Ever since Sadiq Khan first proposed the ULEZ, I’ve been vocal about its shortcomings.

That’s not because I don’t get the importance of tackling pollution in the city, but because of the crippling effect it will have on the economy.

It seems to me that if the Mayor was really serious about preventing the unnecessary deaths of Londoners, then he’d focus more on curbing knife crime rather than diesel vans.

His decision to bring forward the ULEZ deadline to April is a death knell for businesses in the city. His relentless pursuit to be seen as a champion of clean-air initiatives, is leaving the very people he relies on for support – London business owners – stomaching a hefty fee.

It begs the question; has he even taken into account the potential cost to businesses and jobs?

Fleet of over 250 vans 

Pimlico Plumbers has a fleet of over 250 vans, 150 of which are now deemed ‘non-compliant’ according to the new ULEZ ruling. The penalty for keeping my vans running in central London, would stack up to a ludicrous sum of £908,000 annually in penalties.

Meanwhile, the cost of replacing them is even more – a whopping £4.5m – meaning I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.

I’ve always believed that businesses should be allowed to let their vehicles naturally come to the end of their viable lifespan, or at least that would seem the sensible policy to me. Instead, business owners like me are being forced to throw away assets that were instantly stripped of their value the moment Big Ben chimed midnight, on April 7th 2019.

At a time of Brexit uncertainty, with the economy just about keeping its head above the water, businesses surely can’t be expected to shell out such ridiculous sums just to appease the Mayor’s mad and unrealistic ‘quick fix’.

The way I see it, it feels like it has a lot more to do with raising money than lowering pollution – hardly the kind of message you want to be sending businesses in the capital. Particularly when owners are already paying so much towards the Congestion Charge and have spent money on updating their fleets to meet existing eco-standards. The decision to deny owners a sunset clause or the chance to phase the policy in is highly irresponsible.

Electric alternative 

Had there been a viable electric alternative on offer for the past few years, with multiple charging stations dotted around the capital, then maybe I and many other business owners might have been more prepared, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Now, we’re left with deteriorating assets worth a fraction of their previous resale value and few future-proofed, practical alternatives.

In February, City Hall announced a scrappage scheme worth up to £6,000 per vehicle. Yet the £23 million in funds available was allocated to micro businesses alone (with fewer than 10 employees). It’s unfair on larger businesses to be expected to bear the brunt of the rest of the cost and not only that but the money’s not even being used: in March the Evening Standard newspaper reported that fewer than 100 had applied to have their vehicles scrapped.

Don’t get me wrong, I accept that London pollution levels need to be tackled– but there surely has to be a better way to achieve that without fast tracking the London economy down the drain.

Letting cars naturally come to the end of their lifespan and making greener alternatives more accessible and affordable seems a much more pragmatic approach to me. Once older non-compliant vehicles end their useful life, all new ones will be fitted with Euro VI engines in any case.

Khan must be barking up the wrong tree if he thinks passing the buck onto London’s businesses is the way forward. If he decides to keep up his headline grabbing anti-business agenda to chase some non-existent green award, I may well have to run for Mayor of London in 2020 to clean up this mess.

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2 Comments

  1. We run a small start-up and the impact for us is significantly damaging. The 3500 scrappage cost may as well be a free ticket to the moon, for all the help it will bring us.

    This is in fact a double whammy, not only are we seeing higher costs from ULEZ, but now councils are adding their own surcharge to parking, which more than doubled last time we tried to park in Islington.

    If the mayor was serious about reducing emissions, he could employ existing technology alternatives to remove speed humps, and the
    relax parking rules so vehicles drive more efficiently.

    But he won’t do that, because it doesn’t make any money does it?

    As a technology entrepreneur, championing green innovation myself, I feel very let down by the Mayor…

    1. We run a small start-up and the impact for us is significantly damaging. The 3500 scrappage cost may as well be a free ticket to the moon, for all the help it will bring us.

      This is in fact a double whammy, not only are we seeing higher costs from ULEZ, but now councils are adding their own surcharge to parking, which more than doubled last time we tried to park in Islington.

      If the mayor was serious about reducing emissions, he could employ existing technology alternatives to remove speed humps, and the
      relax parking rules so vehicles drive more efficiently.

      But he won’t do that, because it doesn’t make any money does it?

      As a technology entrepreneur, championing green innovation myself, I feel very let down by the Mayor…

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