Green mayoral contender calls for ‘fairer road charging system’ to replace Ulez and Congestion Charge

Zoë Garbett said proposed scheme would charge vehicles based on “distances driven, vehicle emissions, time of day and location”, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Green Party mayoral candidate Zoe Garbett (credit Green Party)
Green Party mayoral candidate Zoë Garbett (credit Green Party)

The Green Party’s contender for London mayor has said she would consult on introducing a “smarter, fairer road charging system” for drivers, which would replace the congestion charge and Ulez.

Mayoral candidate Zoë Garbett said that her proposed scheme would charge vehicles based on “distances driven, vehicle emissions, time of day and location”.

The idea bears a close resemblance to the ‘pay-per-mile’ system proposed by Labour mayor Sadiq Khan in his 2018 transport strategy – but which he has since promised will not happen for as long as he is mayor.

Quizzed by LBC on Wednesday (14th) about the congestion charge, Garbett said she would look at “scrapping it and probably moving towards a smarter, fairer road charging system, but it would have to be consulted on with residents to make sure it was fair”.

Approached for further detail, she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that while she supports “the measures needed to reduce dangerous levels of air pollution across London”, neither the Ulez nor the “outdated” congestion charge “tackles all of the worst-polluting vehicles”.

She said: “We will start consultation on a new road charging scheme, which will be fairer for everyone.

“The scheme would look to introduce charges based on a variety of factors including distances driven, vehicle emissions, time of day and location and with the possibility of sharing costs between passengers to encourage car sharing.”

Garbett also said during her LBC interview that she would agree to serve as Khan’s deputy mayor, saying: “If he’d have me, yes, absolutely”.

The question was posed hypothetically by presenter Nick Ferrari. He was referring to the fact that Ken Livingstone – who at the time was an independent rather than Labour mayor – appointed Green assembly member Jenny Jones as his deputy for a year in 2003/04.

There is no indication at this stage that Khan plans to make any such offer to Garbett or his other political opponents.

Garbett was joined on Ferrari’s morning show by Liberal Democrat candidate Rob Blackie and Reform UK candidate Howard Cox.

Blackie said London now has a “very confusing, patchwork” range of charges for London drivers, though he stopped short of advocating for a new system like the one described by Garbett.

He said that as mayor he would look to “incentivise people to have green behaviours”, including by “encouraging people into electric cars” and making it “easier for people to transition to better vehicles”.

He previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he would look to make the Ulez “better targeted”, potentially by providing more exemptions from the charge in certain circumstances.

Conservative candidate Susan Hall has promised to remove the Ulez’s outer London expansion on “day one” of her mayoralty, but Cox has gone further by pledging to scrap the entire Ulez.

He told LBC: “Ulez does not work. All it is is a cash-grab on the poorest and also small businesses. It’s ruining London.” He added that he preferred measures like “incentivising clean fuel technology”.

Khan’s expansion of the Ulez to cover every London borough in August last year provoked fierce criticism from many of his political opponents, who soon began asking whether he would be introducing any further charges for motorists.

The mayor has insisted over recent months that a ‘pay-per-mile’ scheme is “not on the table and not on my agenda”, despite City Hall Conservatives accusing him of not being honest about his “true intentions”. They point out that the mayor previously said – in answer to a written question in July 2021 – that he had “no plans to extend the Ulez to outer London”, before announcing such plans eight months later, in March 2022.

Khan says that he expanded the Ulez to allow five million Londoners to breathe cleaner air, and that the measure will save lives. More than 95% of vehicles seen driving on an average day in London are now Ulez-compliant, meaning that they do not pay the £12.50 daily charge.

The London mayoral election is on Thursday, 2nd May.

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