Labour’s war on cars hits poorest hardest

By | August 23, 2023

I recently attended a funeral for a lovely lady who had been a stalwart of the Eltham Conservative Party throughout the time I have been involved. The ceremony was a strangely positive event, celebrating Janet’s life and the wonderful person she was, however, at the wake conversation turned to people’s concerns over how expensive it is to drive in London now.

Given my campaign against the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), many people raised concerns with me about the £12.50 per day cost of owning a non-compliant car. In this debate, the point is often made about how difficult it will be for people to cope with this increased cost as an abstract idea. However, it was upsetting to hear an 80-year-old pensioner describing how she could not afford to replace her current non-compliant car which meant she was looking at reducing her journeys from home. To make matters worse, her daughter’s family live outside the ULEZ zone in Kent and have a diesel car so the introduction of the new charge means that they will have to reduce their visits and she will see her grandchildren less unless she goes to see them. It was incredibly sad to hear about the way in which the introduction of ULEZ will impact on one person’s independence and quality of life not least as there is no obvious solution to these problems once the extension has been introduced next week.

And this isn’t the only policy which is making life harder for many Eltham residents to use their cars locally. The Labour Party’s relentless commitment to net zero isn’t just held by Keir Starmer and the Mayor of London, but also by Labour Councillors in the Royal Borough of Greenwich who have introduced an emissions-based set of parking charges. The charges aren’t well advertised and even if you do find the relevant section of the Council’s website it is a work of genius to figure out which band your car park or Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) is in. These new charges were introduced at the end of July and mean that owners of non-compliant cars will not only pay more through ULEZ, but they will also be charged almost three times as much as the cleanest cars to park in any Council owned area or for permits outside their own home in Controlled Parking Zones. The highest band charge is £7 per hour which will effectively ban people from parking in those areas.  

Parking charges at Orangery Lane Car Park aren’t advertised on the Council’s sign.

Of course, it is not just the direct cost of these charges which is going to hit residents in Eltham and Chislehurst, but the fact that prices will rise locally as businesses pass on the cost of higher parking charges in their prices. Anecdotally (as described in the Spectator this week) it is clear that tradesmen are unlikely to be able to replace their vans with ULEZ compliant versions so they will end up having to raise their charges to incorporate the ULEZ charge. Higher parking costs locally will also be passed on to residents when tradesmen visit their homes or through higher prices in shops as businesses have to recoup their own increased permit costs. 

So ULEZ is not the only Labour policy which will make life harder for the poorest members of our community.  These are straightforward regressive taxes which the richest members of our community can avoid (as those impacted can afford to buy compliant cars) while the poorest are stuck with higher charges to park or drive locally and everyone faces increased prices as businesses are forced to pass on these taxes to consumers. Labour politicians can talk all they like about the cost-of-living crisis and Keir Starmer can attempt to backtrack on his previous commitment to these policies, but we know what a Labour Government will do as we can see how it behaves when it is in power in London or Greenwich. 

I do believe it is vitally important that we address the problem of excessive CO2 emissions but doing this with policies that will predominantly hit the poorest members of our community the worst cannot be right.  Policies which limit the independence of poorer people and those who struggle with mobility like older pensioners or the disabled simply cannot be fair.  As an MP I would not support policies based on a fantasy world where a payment of up to £2,000 can get you a ULEZ compliant car – it is simply a good sound bite without any grounding in reality. These policies have nothing to do with improving air quality, and everything to do with raising more money at the expense of our poorest residents and it is something I will continue to oppose.

One thought on “Labour’s war on cars hits poorest hardest

  1. Fergal Favier

    I think there are some excellent points made there by Mr Davis. A huge concern must be for businesses in the local area, and one example is the Westmount Launderette. I am sure I am not alone in having to cease calling to them since the ULEZ came in. We only use the car, at the most, once per week now. Our car only has 50,000 miles and is 3 months too old to be ULEZ free, (eventhough our road tax is zero because we meet the low emmissions threshold for DVLA but not for Sadiq). but at the same time it is running perfectly so we are going to keep hold of it for now. The cost of replacing a perfectly operational vehicle outweighs the benefits we would gain. But, to get back to the launderette, cycling with a large bag of towels is not an option and the bus there would take too long so we have stopped going.
    Small things like this are bound to be frustrating for small, local businesses and I bet ULEZ is affecting many more than the excellent Westmount Launderette.
    Thanks to Charlie Davis for highlighting the many issues people with cars are having to put up with at the moment.


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