Call for Ulez exemption for disabled drivers rejected

London Assembly votes down proposal for Blue Badge exemption in low emissions zone, reports Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter

Close up of an Ultra Low Emission Zone sign
The Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) was extended to the North Circular in October, brining it into Enfield for the first time (credit Transport for London)

The London Assembly has voted down a motion calling on Sadiq Khan to introduce an exemption for Blue Badge holders driving through the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (Ulez).

Currently, owners of vehicles which do not meet minimum emissions standards are only temporarily exempt from the £12.50 daily charge until 2025 if their vehicle is tax classified as “disabled” or a “disabled passenger vehicle”.

But thousands of disabled drivers are still liable to pay the charge if they drive an older vehicle that does not have the correct tax classification.

Ulez was extended to the North Circular in October, bringing it into Enfield borough for the first time.

At a meeting of the London Assembly last week, Conservative assembly member Nicholas Rogers proposed a motion that called on Sadiq Khan to exempt all Blue Badge holders from having to pay the charge for driving in the zone.

Rogers said: “This motion is simple; it’s about protecting some of London’s most vulnerable residents. Disabled Londoners are often more reliant on their vehicles to move about the city, and they frequently face up against a public transport network that is simply often inaccessible to them.

“While some Londoners on the highest levels of disability benefits are exempt from Ulez, the rules are complicated and exclude the vast majority of disabled people in London. It would be fairer and simpler to exempt all Blue Badge holders from the Ulez just as they are from the Congestion Charge.”

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He added that “we need to clean up London’s air, but we can’t do it on the backs of disabled people”.

The motion was voted down, however, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats voting against it while the Conservative and Green Party groups voted in favour.

Labour’s Onkar Sahota accused the Conservatives of tabling a “wrecking motion”, adding that “it wrecks the mayor’s initiative to improve the air quality in London”.

Sahota said: “Disabled people, more than able-[bodied] people, need good quality air and this motion is too course an instrument to give any targeted relief to them.”

Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon, whose group also voted against the motion, said that “this motion does raise a serious issue” but that “actually, this is a really complex area and the motion does not address that”.

She said: “Back in 2019 TfL did a study that showed disabled Londoners are less likely to have household access to a car than non-disabled Londoners. Drivers of vehicles registered under the disabled tax class or disabled passenger tax class will not have to pay the Ulez charge until October 2025. There’s a scrappage scheme – admittedly it could go further – but there is a scrappage scheme that some disabled people are eligible for.

“I want to see disabled people excluded from paying the Ulez by ensuring their vehicles are compliant and supporting them in that way, not by granting permanent exclusions to a large number of polluting vehicles.”

Even if the motion had passed, the London Assembly has no binding power of the Mayor of London and therefore could have only recommended he introduce an exemption.

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