A scaffolding company based in Romford, East London, is being forced to re-route its work away from parts of Greater London to which the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) was expanded on October 25th.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced the expansion of the ULEZ from its original area in central London to all parts of the city within the North and South Circular roads in a bid to reduce pollution in the capital, but many low-income households and small businesses complain that they have not had the means to upgrade to low-emission vehicles in time.
Speaking to MyLondon, business-owner David Hammond said his family-run scaffolding company is no longer taking calls from customers in the ULEZ, and that his business now has no choice but to operate in suburban areas outside the zone.
“Both of our work trucks that we use to carry our material daily, are apparently far too old to enter inside the ULEZ for free, so we will be charged £25 a day,” he says. “In total it’ll be £150 a week, if we go on a six-day working basis.
“At the moment we are having to avoid the ULEZ, because the jobs being offered aren’t financially viable to make any profit from”.
David estimates that around 70 percent of his customers were living or operating in the ULEZ, and that much of his work in those areas involved solar panel installations and insulation work, but since the ULEZ was expanded, he has been left asking why his business is being “driven out” from providing a service that’ll transform London into a greener city”.
Although the government is running a support scheme to help low-income drivers to buy new ULEZ-compliant vehicles, businesses such as David’s have struggled to find the funds to do so by themselves.
“We were making plans to upgrade our fleet a few years ago. However, the pandemic struck, and we were unfortunately plunged into a financial crisis, a crisis that we are still finding ourselves in to this day,” he says.
“It’s an absolute miracle we are here today, to be honest, especially with everything that has gone on”.
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While David says he is in favour of a “greener London for all”, he opposes the £12.50 daily charge being implemented on non-compliant vehicles entering the ULEZ.
“I really do believe that the £12.50 charge is more like a stealth tax. It’s not about saving lives, but more about making money from people who are actually making a difference.
“In theory that sort of money could greatly help us buy newer trucks and go greener, which would be great for London as a whole,” he says, adding that he has family members who have respiratory illnesses, so he speaks “sincerely”.
For David, re-routing his work to areas outside the ULEZ also means having to sever long-lasting relationships with customers that have taken years to build.
He says that many of his old customers are ignoring his quotes for the work they are requesting because of the added costs.
“People often say that having a scaffolding company erect scaffolding at their homes is extremely expensive, which it is, as scaffolding is very expensive to store and transport. Then you have all the hidden costs, such as fuel, public liability insurance, truck insurance, replacement tools, materials, labour charges etc,” David says.
“It’s extremely sad in a way, because we have many people asking for work, but down to the economics, we have to give them the bad news of being unable to employ them.
“At the end of the day we generate work opportunities for others and this should be given priority in regards to rebuilding a better London.
“The government has said they want to kickstart the economy, yet they’ve introduced a scheme that’ll harm it”.
Expressing fears his company will never recover from the decision to expand the ULEZ, David says that the expansion has been “frustrating” and has caused “much anxiety”.
“It’s caused much alarm and distress for us as a family who just want to survive and create a better environment for all”.