Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is urging the Mayor of London to “think twice” on his plans to expand the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (Ulez) to outer London.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Sunak called the plans an “unnecessary extra tax” when inflation was “causing a hassle”.
He added it would put a “burden” on families when they “visit the supermarket, take their kids to school, go to see their GP”.
City Hall said the mayor would “look at new ideas to support Londoners”.
It comes after the High Court ruled on Friday the expansion of the Ulez across London was lawful.
Five Conservative-led councils had challenged the Labour mayor of London’s plans to charge older, more polluting vehicles £12.50 a day from 29 August.
It also follows comments from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who on Wednesday urged the mayor to reflect on the expansion in the wake of a by-election victory for the Conservatives in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, which he said was due to the “impact it’s having on people”.
‘No-one is forcing them’
Mr Sunak said: “It just shows that they are out of touch with the concerns of hard-working people.
“Ultimately there’s an elected mayor in London and a Labour Party who are supportive of this policy, and ultimately it’s not for the UK government to come and bail them out.”
He added: “The Ulez is a policy by the Labour mayor of London, backed by the Labour Party and Keir Starmer and I’d tell them not to do it. No-one is forcing them to do it. They should not do it.”
However, Sir Keir rejected that assessment of the policy earlier this week, saying the law “requires the mayor of London to take measures to reduce air pollution once it gets above a certain level”.
He added he wanted to “see whether there are things that can be done to make it easier for people” who are affected by the scheme”.
Boris Johnson decided to introduce the Ulez when he was the mayor of London, which came into effect in April 2019 – by which time Mr Khan had become mayor.
Initially it covered the same central area as the Congestion Zone, before being widened out to the North and South Circular roads in 2021.
In November 2022, a further expansion to cover all London boroughs was confirmed. This is due to start on 29 August 2023.
Call for government ‘support’
City Hall has said that 90% of cars seen driving in outer London complied with Ulez standards, which has been backed by the UK Statistics Authority – although the watchdog criticised the mayor of data transparency.
A spokesperson for the mayor of London said: “The mayor has been clear that the decision to expand the Ulez was very difficult and not something he took lightly, but necessary to save the lives and health of young and vulnerable Londoners.
“The mayor has been listening to Londoners throughout the Ulez rollout, which is why from next week he is expanding the scrappage scheme to nearly a million families who receive child benefit and all small businesses with up to 50 employees. He will continue to look at new ideas to support Londoners.
“He continues to call on government to further support the switch to cleaner vehicles through funding a targeted national scrappage scheme, or providing additional funding to London, as it has done for other cities implementing clean air zones across the country.”
The Labour Party declined to comment.