Shaun Bailey is a London Assembly member and the Environment spokesman for the Conservative Group.

Improving air quality is clearly a top priority.   However, Sadiq Khan needs to consider how his plans for the ULEZ will impact on the three emergency services, members of which dedicate their careers to serving Londoners.

I and my fellow Conservatives on the London Assembly have uncovered that the Capital’s emergency services are struggling to cope with Sadiq Khan’s plans for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Information that I have obtained from FOIs show all three emergency services are concerned about the financial and logistical impact of the introduction of the London Mayor’s scheme.

The ULEZ will require all vehicles travelling inside the zone – including those run by the emergency services – to meet exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge of £12.50.

Boris Johnson proposed to introduce the ULEZ in 2020, with the charging zone matching the Congestion Charge area. The emergency services have known about the introduction for some time now, and the longer date of 2020 gave the services at least some time to prepare. However, Sadiq Khan has pledged to bring forward the date of implementation to 2019 and he wants to widen the zone to the North and South Circulars – covering half of London with a new motoring charge in the process.

The emergency services had designed their vehicle replacement programmes with the original date of 2020 in mind, so bringing the implementation date to 2019 has financial implications for London’s emergency services.

A recent report by the London Fire Brigade highlights the impact of the new ULEZ introduction date. The London Fire Brigade admitted within the report that there would be 52 non-compliant vehicles in 2019. This means that every day one of these vehicles enters the zone to potentially save a life, the fire service will be charged £12.50.

Following on from this, I made Freedom of Information requests to the Metropolitan Police Service and the London Ambulance Service to examine the impact on them. The information obtained from the Freedom of Information requests were astonishing and shows how clumsy and ill thought through this policy really is:

The Metropolitan Police says:

  • It needs to replace 82 per cent of its entire fleet.
  • That despite a replacement programme, financial restraints mean that by 2020 it will still have 800 non-compliant vehicles facing daily charges.
  • Tight budgets mean it is unlikely to be able to replace the vehicles early.
  • It has asked the Mayor for concessions on its non-compliant vehicles

London Fire Brigade says:

  • If the ULEZ is brought forward to 2019, it will have 52 non-compliant vehicles on the road facing daily charges – potentially costing a quarter of a million pounds per year.

London Ambulance says:

  • It needs to replace 828 diesel vehicles and 27 petrol vehicles before the fleet is ULEZ compliant
  • It will have to modify its replacement programme if the deadline is brought forward

It just seems unbelievable to me that with the high number of emergency services vehicles that will not be compliant by 2019, the Mayor has stated that he will not give an exemption for our brave ‘blue light’ services. Exempting these vital public service vehicles would have a minimal impact on emissions, yet doing the opposite could impose a cost of millions on them if it goes ahead.

It should be abundantly clear that a pollution tax on fire engines, police cars and ambulances is not what Londoners want or need. Unfortunately the Mayor appears to be telegraphing his virtues with this decision rather than delivering an effective policy.