This weekend, a Telegraph investigation revealed that consultation responses may have been improperly excluded, after opposition votes were disproportionately excluded by opaque ‘screening’ processes at TfL. This is supported by evidence from whistleblowers who spoke to Conservative Assembly Members.
Nick Rogers AM has today written to Sadiq Khan demanding that the consultation process is opened to public scrutiny, and reminded him of his requirement to hold a ‘legally compliant’ consultation.
Conservative Assembly Members are also today submitting nine Freedom of Information Act requests to TfL and the Mayor’s Office, as the group launches its investigation and calls for more whistleblowers at TfL to come forward.
Leaked data shows 66% of the consultation respondents voted against Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ expansion, easily meeting the Mayor’s ‘overwhelming opposition’ threshold. If Sadiq Khan proceeds with the policy, it could be subject to legal challenges.
GLA Conservatives Assembly Members have launched an investigation into Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ expansion consultation, after an investigation by The Telegraph this weekend found submissions were removed without proper oversight or public scrutiny on the grounds that they were allegedly “duplicate or not genuine”, disproportionately reducing the opposition vote.
The findings raise serious questions about the integrity of the consultation process. The final consultation report is not expected to be published until later this year.
Nick Rogers AM has written to the Mayor, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss how the consultation process can be opened to public scrutiny. He is also proposing that the Mayor works constructively with Assembly Members on a new plan to tackle air quality, after leaked data shows overwhelming opposition to his ULEZ expansion.
The leaked results of the ULEZ consultation from when the consultation closed at the end of July are:
66% voted against the ULEZ expansion.
24% voted in favour.
As per The Telegraph’s reporting, some votes have been removed from the process. The modified result, following these exclusions, is 59% opposed. It is unclear whether TfL intends to remove more votes before the final report is published, which may push the opposition count down even further.
Consultations by public bodies have status in law, and any improper exclusions could be unlawful.
Legal implications for Sadiq Khan and Transport for London
In early September, Labour MP Janet Daby attempted to discredit entries from motorists who used templates to respond to the consultation, claiming that they had attempted to ‘manipulate the outcome’ (Evening Standard, 7 September). This refers to one-click templates used by campaign groups on both sides of the argument, where respondents could pre-fill some of the form by clicking a link. An example from a pro-ULEZ campaign group is linked here.
Whistleblowers close to the consultation told GLA Conservatives Assembly Members that this justification has been used to disproportionately exclude votes against the ULEZ expansion. We understand from their evidence that pro-ULEZ template responses have not been excluded to the same extent, or at all.
Consultations held by public bodies must comply with the law, the key principles of which are set out in the Gunning Principles. If responses are improperly excluded in a way that favours a particular side, this may breach the first and fourth principles. Public officials working on the consultation are also required to comply with the Nolan Principles.
Both the 66% actual count and the 59% modified count meet Sadiq Khan’s criteria for ‘overwhelming opposition’, under which he committed to scrapping the policy.
If he proceeds with the policy regardless, those affected by the ULEZ expansion may have grounds to pursue legal action against TfL and the Mayor’s Office, per the legal principles outlined above.
If the consultation is found to be illegitimate, this could also put TfL’s finances at risk. Sadiq Khan was required to hold a consultation on the ULEZ expansion by the TfL financial settlement agreement with the Government. If the consultation is found to be illegitimate, he may be in breach of this agreement.
The ULEZ expansion would have been a ‘cost of living charge’
Under the Mayor’s proposals, non-compliant vehicles who drive within the new boundaries would have been forced to pay a daily £12.50 ‘cost of living charge,’ punishing Londoners who cannot afford to upgrade their vehicles during the cost of living crisis. Disabled people would have been disproportionately affected, as they may require expensive vehicle-specific adaptations to upgrade their cars.
The ULEZ expansion was primarily designed as a revenue raising measure for the Mayor and would not meaningfully affect air quality or climate change. Earlier this year, an integrated impact assessment commissioned by the Mayor found that the proposed expansion would have a negligible effect on air quality.
Many small businesses warned they may have to close down if they and their customers were forced to pay the daily ‘cost of living charge.’ Those who have spoken out publicly include a small coffee van business in Harrow (source), a greengrocers in Surbiton (source), and a tea and coffee house in Bexley (source).
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said of those small businesses with non-compliant vehicles, nearly 1 in 5 (18%) said they would close if the ULEZ is expanded (source). 25% intend to pass charges onto customers, and others have said they would stop serving London. The survey also found 84% of their respondents opposed the proposal to expand the ULEZ.
The ULEZ expansion would have cost taxpayers over £250 million in new signage, cameras and infrastructure, according to TfL estimates. This is more than three times the Mayor’s entire cost of living support package (£80m).
Nick Rogers AM says Sadiq Khan must scrap the policy
Nick Rogers AM, GLA Conservatives transport spokesperson, said:
“Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ expansion would have had a negligible effect on air quality, but would have been devastating for small businesses and low income families. I am not surprised that an overwhelming 66% voted against his cost of living charge, which will force him to drop the policy. Londoners will be shocked by the Telegraph’s revelations on the ULEZ expansion consultation. Sadiq Khan must reassure them by confirming he will now scrap the ULEZ expansion and address the serious integrity concerns raised by the investigation.”
On today’s developments, he added:
“The Telegraph’s findings are shocking and raise serious questions about the integrity of the ULEZ expansion consultation. Sadiq Khan must open the process to public scrutiny, so that the public can have confidence that it has been conducted in a fair and legally compliant way.”