Uxbridge and South Ruislip has long been a Conservative stronghold, but Boris Johnson’s numerous scandals and a strong local Labour Party have threatened to swing the constituency to the Left in the upcoming July 20th by-election. However, the expansion of the Ulez scheme in the area has caused alarm among local businesses and residents, presenting a clear trade-off between the environmental cost of pollution and a daily charge of £12.50, which will add further strain to households that are already struggling. Will the Labour Party prioritise the welfare of their struggling constituents or stick to their green agenda? The Telegraph has the story.
Carole MacKenzie’s bookstall has been a fixture of The Chimes Shopping Centre in Uxbridge for 28 years. For the past six months, though, long-standing customers have been visiting Bargain Books to bid her farewell and good luck.
They can no longer afford the modest £2 for a holiday paperback. Not when they factor in the £12.50 for driving in the newly extended Ultra Low Emissions Zone (Ulez), and the cost of a parking ticket. “They tell me they won’t see me again,” says MacKenzie – who, like many of her fellow stall holders, is in despair about the expansion of the Ulez to include the London Borough of Hillingdon, due to take effect on August 29th. “Most of my customers come from just outside the M25. They can’t afford the Ulez and they can’t afford a new car.”
A policy that was introduced to create cleaner air in the city centre is proving ill-suited to the outer reaches of London. Loyal customers from leafy Buckinghamshire, just a five-minute drive away, will be forced to shop elsewhere.
Business owners feel that the Mayor of London has cut off their oxygen supply during an already challenging economic period. “Last Christmas I had people saying this would be their last tree they’d be buying from us,” says Sharon, who works at the florists, a family business of 50 years standing. “Many of our customers live in Iver and Langley, places that aren’t going to be in the Ulez. People can’t afford it.”
Their delivery van also isn’t Ulez-compliant, meaning that there’s £30,000 that needs to be found somewhere to replace it. Times were already tough. Half the lights on Marios Sergiou’s fabric stall, The Fabric Shop, have been switched off for the past six months. In September his fixed rate ends and he’s preparing for his bill to triple. After 25 years in the trade, business hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels and Sergiou is using his personal savings to keep his stall going each week. “I can’t walk away because I’m tied to a lease that lasts another four years,” he says.
He is also thinking ahead to the impending by-election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip on July 20th and feels torn. Long a Conservative stronghold, Boris Johnson’s controversies, and a strong local Labour Party, had threatened to swing the constituency to the Left.
Sergiou says: “I was wavering. If Starmer stops Ulez from expanding I probably would vote for Labour. But if he doesn’t, he’s going to shoot himself in the foot.”