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ULEZ launch day is almost upon us and small businesses are worried

The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will come into existence on Monday 8 April and still FSB London is receiving calls and emails from its membership of small businesses who are very worried about the future of their businesses operating within the capital.

In January, FSB London called for a small business friendly introduction to the new ULEZ scheme.  This included: 

1) TfL and the Mayor writing letters to businesses that have entered the zone with a vehicle that does not meet the emissions standard on 8 April – and state that they have three months to change vehicles or they will receive the backdated charges.  
2) TfL and the Mayor to use the final three months, January to March, to significantly increase spending on external communications on the ULEZ scheme as many small businesses inside London were unaware.  
3) TfL to provide a period of grace of twelve months to businesses who have 
entered the zone who can prove they have a lease that runs up to April 2020 – when the original ULEZ date was set by the previous Mayor. 
4) A substantial increase in the number of electric charging points across the capital by 2020. 

FSB London welcomed the Mayor’s £23million diesel scrappage scheme for micro businesses which opened in February 2019 and that we have been actively promoting. However, we are aware of a notable lack of uptake of this option amongst our membership to date. The reasons that have been shared with us include the additional business cost implications, Brexit uncertainty, broken trust for those that took out leases in good faith of what are now considered non-compliant vehicles, and also the severe problems relating to supply chain readiness of appropriate electric vehicles (EVs).  

There is still uncertainty regarding awareness of the scheme and we feel that the level of communications with business has not been strong enough.

Sue Terpilowski OBE, London Policy Chair, FSB said: “FSB fully acknowledges that tackling air quality is a critical issue for London. However, the cost of doing business in the capital is already high which is forcing many small businesses to re-evaluate their business activity. The 24/7 ULEZ charge is an additional cost burden to businesses. For those with vehicles under 3.5 tonnes it will cost £24 per day or £145 per week if driving in the zone every day. Coach companies and lorry operators will be facing charges of £100+ per day. 

“FSB is already aware of coach companies taking their day trip business elsewhere.  Instead of school trips to London Zoo, other zoo destinations are being offered to avoid the London road charging schemes. The London tourist attractions reliant on coach visitors could potentially see a downturn in numbers with the introduction of ULEZ.”

FSB London is concerned that lessons have not been learnt from the first ULEZ as promised there would be, such as giving businesses proper time to plan especially knowing that the supply of electric commercial vehicles is not currently meeting demand; ensuring businesses inside and outside of London are well informed in good time; that appropriate ULEZ business literature is produced;  and ensuring the adequate provision of all types of EV charging points are in place to enable ULEZ compliant businesses operating EVs can re-charge quickly.

Sue Terpilowski added: “Small businesses are suffering due to lethal cocktail of increasing business rates, higher employment charges [Pensions and Minimum wage], and the introduction of Making Tax Digital.  In isolation, they can be worked through, however, mixed together within a two week time frame, alongside the Brexit uncertainty and the launch of the ULEZ, it spells disaster for many micro and small businesses.”