Sadiq Khan has justified his controversial decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone to every borough in London by reminding us of all the good it will do for Londoners’ health. But could the move have the exact opposite effect? 

From next summer, the zone will be 18 times larger, spanning outer regions of the capital such as Enfield, Harrow, Hounslow and extending all the way down to the Surrey border in the South. All high-polluting cars will be charged a hefty £12.50 per day.

The Mayor of London has admitted that “Expanding the ULEZ London-wide has not been an easy decision.” But, he added, “In the end, public health comes before political expediency.”

While it’s true that over 4,000 Londoners are estimated to die prematurely each year from conditions related to air pollution, Khan’s public health argument may not wash with many of those in the health and care sector. 

Alas, it seems Khan has failed to consider the bigger picture. Professor Martin Green, the Chief Executive of Care England has hit back, warning that the “terribly unfair” charge will place “enormous” pressure on carers and the NHS, many of whom will now be unable to afford to work in London.

Prof Green told LBC: “Already, we have huge problems getting staff, particularly to deliver care in peoples’ own home. This is going to make it even worse.”

The majority of care workers who pay home visits rely on cars to do so. The average wage for a carer is just £24k-a-year, meaning the ULEZ charge represents a whopping 15% tax on their take-home pay.

The ULEZ expansion will also punish poorly paid NHS staff who work night shifts in outer boroughs of London miles from public transports links. 

But all for the good of public health, mind! And perfectly timed too – just when a cost of living crisis has left many families in London’s poorest boroughs struggling to afford even basic foods. 

“He seems to have no understanding of the impact this will have on the most vulnerable,” says Prof Green. 

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