Havering Council Meeting, 23rd November, 2022: Question Time

Resident Association councillors used to ask questions about potholes and such like. Osman Dervish would smile sweetly, pat them on the head and say, ‘Well done’. Drivel, but everyone felt better. Now the roles are reversed. The question is, ‘How well are Conservatives doing?’

The first question was by Keith Prince.1 His question (Q1) was about ULEZ.2 He knows opening questions are routine with the supplementary question being the killer. Cunning politicians put cabinet members3 in a tough spot and score a triumph. I thought Keith would be classy.

Unfortunately, the blind were leading the blind. Barry Mugglestone hadn’t read the ULEZ proposals and thinks, wrongly, it’s about climate change. Even worse he thinks it’s a tax. Barry was reading a prepared answer from officers, who also haven’t read the proposals, or have, and Barry didn’t accept their answer. It’s beyond stupid to misunderstand ULEZ’s purpose, which is, “To help clean up London’s air 

Furthermore “…ULEZ is central to the Mayor of London’s plans to improve Londoners’ health. It will clean up the city’s toxic air, which leads to the early deaths of thousands of people every year.”5 (my emphasis)

Keith isn’t guilty of misunderstanding. He’s playing politics. On this occasion he ranted about taxation, which he knows isn’t true.6 He then made progress. He said if people driving 18 year old bangers are charged £12.50 a day for destroying people’s health, Havering’s businesses will collapse. Keith doesn’t have a grip on economic realities.

The principal purpose of ULEZ is saving lives in Havering.

Addendum: Question allocation

If the Administration believe that ULEZ is about climate change why wasn’t it given to Climate Change cabinet member Keith Darvill to answer?

Notes

1 Council questions.pdf (havering.gov.uk)

2 Ultra Low Emission Zone – Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk)

3 Barry Mugglestone. Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Got to 29 minutes in

4 Ultra Low Emission Zone – Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk)

5 Havering, ULEZ and Public Health – Politics in Havering About 3 people a week die in Havering from air pollution

6 Because he knows what taxation means.

Havering, ULEZ and Public Health

Government intervention in urban Public Health began in 1835 when councils were permitted to build pavements and charge them to ratepayers. 120 years later The Clean Air Act was passed by a Conservative government to stop thousands of preventable deaths from air pollution. The Great Smog, 1952, slaughtered Londoners adding to the normal annual toll.

The 1956 Act banned traditional open coal fires and turbocharged the switch to central heating.

 

Domestic coal delivery was a very hard and dirty job

The Clean Air Act was transformative, with housing changed forever. There were significant costs during the transition period. But! Tens of thousands of lives were saved and Londoners lived longer, happier, healthier lives.

ULEZ stands in this tradition. “The ULEZ is central to the Mayor of London’s plans to improve Londoners’ health. It will clean up the city’s toxic air, which leads to the early deaths of thousands of people every year.”2

The Great Smog of 1952 was a physical reality. Parts of London came to a halt with choking polluted air and very poor visibility.

 

The Great Smog of London killed thousands of Londoners

21st century air pollution is invisible, though deaths are unpleasantly real. Three people a week die in Havering from air pollution. Deaths are the gruesome tip of a toxic iceberg. Thousands of people suffer respiratory problems which ruin their everyday lives.

During the transition to EV vehicles, ULEZ is a small and important step. It stands in a long Public Health tradition stretching back to 1835.

Notes

1 Summer 2022. ULEZ is London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. For the historical contest see Highway Act 1835 – Wikipedia and Clean Air Act 1956 – Wikipedia

2 The Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone for London | London City Hall There are about 9,500 air pollution deaths each year Twice as many deaths caused by air pollution in London – HealthyAir