Harrow's Labour councillors abstained on a vote to oppose London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to extend the £12.50 Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) charge.

The council's Conservative leadership raised an emergency motion on the expansion plan at a full council meeting last Thursday (February 23).

Harrow, alongside London councils Bexley, Bromley, and Hillingdon, as well as Surrey County Council, have started a legal review to see if plans to expand the ULEZ into outer London from August are lawful. Mr Khan says the expansion will reduce emissions and improve air quality in the capital.

The Conservative-led council's leader, Cllr Paul Osborn, called on the Labour opposition to support its decision to fight against the plans at the meeting.

He said: “We as an administration continue to believe that this is the wrong solution to the problem of clean air and at the wrong time.”

The initial legal action will cost an estimated total of £400,000, meaning Harrow residents will have to pay a bill of £80,000 – a fifth of the total as it would be split between all five councils involved – if it is not successful. The costs will be even higher if the case goes to court.

The motion called for all councillors to register their vote on the matter. Harrow Labour group leader Cllr David Perry said it would have to stay out of this issue and abstain, claiming it was “unfair” to be asked to support something they had not seen the details of.

He added: “We can’t possibly vote for or against something where there’s major legal implications and cost implications when I need the permission of leaders of other councils to see something which Harrow taxpayers money is being used for. 

“When you are not, as a leader, given the information to make a recommendation to your colleagues, don’t insult our intelligence because I won’t insult theirs. I didn’t know why you had to play politics with this issue.” 

The deputy leader of the council, Cllr Marilyn Ashton, accused Cllr Perry of “hiding behind process”. She said: “You don’t want to make a decision. You’re sitting on the fence.”

Cllr Perry said he is on the record as raising areas of concern with the plan, including the cost of living, its potential impact on business, and the scrappage scheme.

Mr Khan’s office says that air pollution disproportionately impacts the poorer and most vulnerable members of society. It claims that pollution levels in areas where the most deprived Londoners live are still 13% higher than the least deprived areas.

It says that 85% of outer London drivers already own compliant vehicles but more needs to be done to prevent harmful diseases and premature deaths due to pollution.

Cllr Osborn told councillors that he has refused to sign an agreement with Transport for London (TfL), as well as refusing to assist with putting up any of the infrastructure required for the scheme, including signs and an estimated 80 to 140 cameras.

He said: “The ULEZ still allows for Range Rovers and Ferraris to drive freely around London if they are modern. The ULEZ also takes no account of how long or how far you drive within the expanded zone.

“You could drive all day, for 10 or 12 hours, or just half a mile to go to the doctor’s and you would still have to pay £12.50 if you are driving a non-compliant vehicle.”

The results of the electronic vote saw all Conservative councillors vote in favour of the motion, while all Labour councillors abstained.

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