The Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) is a designated area in London where vehicles with higher emissions are required to pay a fee for their movement. This initiative aims to enhance air quality throughout the city and is operational 24/7, 365 days a year, excluding Christmas Day (25th December).
Non-compliance with Ulez emission standards for business vehicle may result in significantly increased daily charges and higher penalty fees. Such consequences largely affect business expenses, impact delivery and pickup schedules, and have lasting implications for the environment.
Ever since its implementation, homeowners are discovering themselves subject to Ulez charges, even when they haven't left their homes, as tradespeople are allegedly incorporating these charges into their bills or invoices to compensate for the levy's impact on their businesses. This additional expense is likely to be frustrating for customers, especially since self-employed tradespeople can actually claim back the charges as a business expense on their tax returns.
It also raises questions about whether tradesmen should charge each customer the full £12.50, even if they serve multiple clients in the same area on the same day. With the Ulez expansion covering all 32 London boroughs soon, many tradesmen who don't work in central London will now be affected by the traffic charge.
Some tradesmen are also facing the need to invest tens of thousands of pounds in new vans that meet Euro 6 emission standards to avoid the daily Ulez charge. This additional expense may lead them to consider raising their service prices. Diesel vans manufactured before 2016 are typically not compliant with Euro 6 standards and are subject to the Ulez charge.
Various organisations and businesses spoke to Asian Voice about the impact of Ulez on them.
Small businesses struggle to strike a balance
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has already previously cautioned that the expansion of the Ulez scheme could pose challenges for traders, considering it "heavy-handed." Matthew Jaffa, Senior External Affairs Manager at FSB told Asian Voice, “Businesses are adapting to the new Ulez extension through flexible decision-making. We are hearing that many are passing the charges onto their customers and others will be absorbing the cost.
“We have seen businesses look to scrap vehicles; however, the smallest firms are often the hardest to reach and so communicating the funds in the clearest possible way, in particular for those with light vans who are keen to retrofit, remains paramount. It is also vitally important that the Mayor and TfL do not go heavy-handed on penalties in the first few months of the scheme.”
MSDUK is another organisation that fosters collaboration between innovative and rapidly growing ethnic minority businesses and global corporations dedicated to establishing inclusive and diverse supply chains. The CEO of the organisation, Mayank Shah said, "As we navigate the changes brought by Ulez, it's crucial to recognise the dual challenge: ensuring cleaner air while safeguarding local enterprises. Striking this balance requires collaborative efforts from all stakeholders.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, and their resilience is paramount. We encourage continued dialogue and solutions that support both environmental goals and the livelihoods of those who serve our local communities can be protected."
Healthcare professionals raise concern about impact of Ulez on patient care
Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy England, said, “Community pharmacies, like all parts of the health service, are committed to a sustainable future for the planet and this is critical for the health and wellbeing of future generations. But community pharmacies are currently on their knees, with financial squeezes and operational pressures making doing business very challenging indeed.
“Government and the NHS must invest more in community pharmacies and support them as they work to continue offering patients the services they need and to achieve the Net Zero vision for the NHS. Without this additional investment in the sector, policies like the Ulez charge will simply add to the financial pressures that the sector is facing.”
Lokesh Patel from Knightons Pharmacy, said, “I have a community pharmacy in Belvedere, Kent and had to spend over 25k to buy another car to comply with Ulez charges. In the current economic climate and high interest rates, this has had a huge impact on my business, especially on patients who are housebound and get free delivery service from my pharmacy. There are a number of pharmacies that will be affected by the Ulez charge which, I believe, is not properly thought through.”
Dr Umesh B Patel MBE DL, Leema Pharmacy, Sunderland, said, “Community pharmacy is already burdened with a number of challenges. Lack of funding, staff shortages, rising interest rates, short supply of medicines, increase in fuel charges by wholesalers have all had a huge impact on community pharmacy across the country. The Ulez charge will have a huge impact on delivery of medicines to patients which is a free service. The impact will be felt both by patients and community pharmacy.”