After overcoming years of protests, wrangling and a High Court battle, he will finally see his much-vaunted expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (Ulez) from Central London to the M25 come into effect. It is expected to generate an estimated £1.1 billion in extra annual revenue for the Labour mayor’s office by 2025.
But far from being a political triumph, the expansion of the daily £12.50 charge on older vehicles is fast turning into a public relations disaster for the hapless Khan.
Almost nine in ten of the new cameras installed to enforce the so-called environmental tax have been stolen or vandalised. Relentless vigilantes, who call themselves ‘Blade Runners’, have been cutting through the camera wires or removing the equipment altogether as fast as the installations have been taking place.
Khan also pledged that 2,750 new enforcement cameras would be installed in new areas covered by the zone, at a cost of up to £75 million, but as of August 16, his team had fallen short by a staggering 800. The missing and damaged cameras will cause chaos after the launch.
In a sign of his growing desperation, Khan lashed out on the LBC radio station on Thursday, claiming much of the opposition to his plans was coming from a combination of oddballs and Right-wingers.
‘I didn’t expect for there to be people linking my policies to clean up the air with conspiracy theories,’ he said, adding: ‘I didn’t expect this to be weaponised by those who you and I have exchanged with, who didn’t believe Covid was real, believed in conspiracy theories and so forth.’
Unfortunately for Khan, his case was immediately undermined by a tearful intervention from the mother of a disabled boy. ‘Lorraine’ called in to the show to tell the London mayor that Ulez will confine her disabled son to the house as he cannot use public transport.
Council rules relating to ‘hidden disabilities’ mean the family car is not eligible for an exemption from the charges.
‘It’s disgusting that we’re being discriminated against,’ she said. ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do. I know there are a lot of parents who are in the same situation. I’ve been having breakdowns over this.’
The London mayor also faces a deliberate campaign of obstruction to Ulez from a host of local councils objecting to the expansion. Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon boroughs and Surrey County Council may have been defeated in the High Court last month after launching a challenge to block the expansion — but the defeat has only stiffened the resolve of the Tory- controlled authorities.