Sadiq Khan has revealed that some £110m of his recently expanded Ultra low emission zone (Ulez) scrappage scheme is still available.
The mayor described the amount remaining in the fund as “plenty of money”, saying he is “determined that no Londoner and no London business is left behind”.
Mr Khan launched a £110m scheme at the end of January, initially open only to those on certain benefits, small businesses and charities.
The eligibility criteria were expanded in June, with the biggest change being that it now covered those in receipt of Child Benefit.
The mayor has now widened the criteria once more, opening the scheme up to every Londoner with a non-compliant vehicle. As part of this latest widening, he has added some £50m to the fund from City Hall’s reserves.
On Friday, he said that some £60m from the original pot was yet to be allocated, meaning with the new funds there is in effect now £110m remaining.
Individual Londoners can apply for grants of £2,000 to replace a car and £1,000 to replace a motorbike – with higher amounts available for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Small businesses and charities can apply for larger sums too, to replace vans and minibuses.
In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service on Friday, Mr Khan said: “I’ve been encouraging Londoners from 2017 when I first brought in the Toxicity Charge – the T-charge – to understand that if they’re driving a non-compliant vehicle, they’re breathing poison. If they’ve got two kids in the back, they’re breathing in poison.
“And so the good news is because the vast, vast majority of cars, motorbikes, vans, minibuses are compliant, they won’t pay a penny more and they’ll be seeing the benefits of cleaner air.
“But I would encourage Londoners to apply straight away if they’ve not got a compliant vehicle. A – because we know there’s plenty of money in the scrappage scheme, but B, the sooner they drive a compliant vehicle, the sooner they’re breathing in cleaner air.”
According to an estimate cited by the BBC, there appear to be at least 300,000 owners of non-compliant cars in outer London and tens of thousands of van drivers on top.
Pressed on the point that the scheme will not be able to help everyone who needs it, the mayor said: “My understanding is some people may decide not to change their cars, because they drive their cars infrequently. That’s a decision for them.
“What I’m keen to do though is to offer support where we’re able to do so. I’m asking the Government to give us some financial support.
“I do welcome the fact that the Government’s given financial support to clean air zones around the country – in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Portsmouth, [and] other parts of the country.
“We’ve got a clean air zone, the Government’s not supporting us. So I’ll carry on lobbying them for more support. If the Government gives more support, I’d encourage them to do it sooner rather than later.”
Following Labour’s failure to win the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, after the Conservatives ran on an anti-Ulez ticket, a number of Labour frontbenchers, including party leader Sir Keir Starmer, said the mayor should “reflect” on his plan to expand the zone.
Asked whether he had the Labour leadership’s support in pressing ahead with the expansion on August 29, he said: “I’ve seen from today’s social media, messages of support from Labour frontbenchers, which I welcome.
“It’s really important for me to be candid in relation to this decision being a very difficult one for me to take, to expand the Ulez. It’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly.
“But it’s a vital one, because we know this policy addresses the issue of air pollution, so it’s saving lives, protecting kid’s lungs, but also it tackles the climate emergency as well – [with] less carbon being emitted.”
On the question of whether he was disappointed to see his party colleagues brief against him, he said: “It’s really important for people to be honest and candid about any concerns they have. Londoners have been candid to me about the concerns they’ve had, and we’ve responded to the concerns.”
The Ulez charges non-compliant vehicles a daily penalty of £12.50 if they are driven within the zone.
The current Ulez boundary is the North and South Circular roads, but the boundary is expanding to cover the whole of Greater London on August 29.
Asked about national support for London’s scrappage scheme in June, a Government spokeswoman commented: “We have provided TfL with £6bn in funding support to keep public transport moving, as well as £2bn towards vehicle grants and infrastructure to support the rollout of clean vehicles across the country.
“More specifically, London has received almost £102m of Government funding for projects specifically targeted at helping to tackle pollution.“Decisions on how to allocate funding to best meet the city’s transport priorities are for the Mayor of London to make.”