A plumber working in South London said he was forced to change jobs after finding out the van he spent two years paying off wasn’t ULEZ compliant. Gordon Isaac, 53, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he used to run his own business and carry out jobs in areas of South London such as Bromley and Bexley.
But under the planned ULEZ expansion, Mr Isaac would have to spend £12.50 every day to drive his van, which was bought for £7,000 and is now 12 years old, to do jobs in outer London. The worker closed his business last month, after a business partner left, and Mr Isaac said he had to take a plumbing job elsewhere as the new company had ULEZ-compliant vehicles - while his current van is unsuitable.
He said: “I paid £7,000 for it before the ULEZ was announced and now it's worth £1,400, so I’m losing over £5,000 in two years.” Speaking about his new role, he said: “I don't have to think about getting a new van, because that was playing on my mind massively. We couldn’t afford this, I hadn’t taken a salary for 18 months. With that increased pressure on the company, it would be huge.”
Mr Isaac said that even before the expansion was announced, he would avoid doing jobs where the zone currently ends to dodge paying the charge, but his tactics weren't always foolproof.
He said: “I was going to a job in Sydenham. And there was a way of doing it that you avoid the ULEZ. I turned into a road and did a U-turn at the top of the road and got charged the ULEZ, because cameras saw me enter the zone.”
Mr Isaac said with the cost of the ULEZ charge and the price of diesel for newer cars, plumbers could be running at a £55 deficit before even doing their first job of the day.
He said: “At the moment, if we go into the ULEZ, then we put that [extra charge] on the job. But if you're starting in the ULEZ zone, you can't put it on a job. So every day you're starting at a minus and there's no thought for the small man.”
The plumber said the “unnecessary” charge will add huge pressure to small businesses, and the money spent on the scheme should be used to improve roads in the zone. He said: “The roads are in a terrible condition, especially around here. There’s a pothole on every road, I don’t know a road where there isn’t. It’s frustrating.”
While Mr Isaac said that putting his business on hold was “soul-destroying”, he is looking forward to getting rid of his current van and moving forward. He said: “Once that one's sold, then yeah, that'll be another weight gone.”
Bexley Council announced last month that it would be legally challenging the Mayor of London on the expansion in court. The council will be opposing the scheme in a coalition with the London boroughs of Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon as well as Surrey County Council.
Councillor Baroness O’Neill OBE, leader of Bexley Council, said: “We have been clear from the start that we believe air quality is important but that ULEZ is the wrong solution. By wanting to expand ULEZ to outer London boroughs it appears that the Mayor’s message is you can pollute as long as you can afford the £12.50.”
The council leader said Bexley Council also believe the money spent on the expansion should be used to fix transport problems within the area.
She added: “We are also very concerned about the mental wellbeing of our residents who we know are already anxious about the installation of ULEZ and the very real prospect that they won’t be able to use their cars to get to work, visit relatives and friends, shop or attend health appointments.”
A Mayor of London spokesperson told the LDRS: “There is no time to waste when around 4,000 Londoners are dying prematurely every year from toxic air. The ULEZ is a very targeted scheme, with more than four in five vehicles in outer London already ULEZ compliant."
“For those with the most polluting vehicles, the Mayor has launched his £110 vehicle scrappage scheme - the largest scheme ever launched by any city in the UK - to help low-income Londoners, disabled Londoners and small businesses and charities to replace their old, polluting vehicles. He has repeatedly called on the Prime Minister to support people in the Home Counties by funding an extension to this scheme so that all those who drive into Greater London can benefit.”
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