Westminster: ULEZ, congestion charge...and emissions-based parking charges?

Westminster is considering parking charges weighted by how polluting a vehicle is.
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Drivers of high-polluting vehicles may be charged more to park in a central London borough in a bid to cut emissions and boost its income. The proposal is one of several that Westminster City Council (WCC) is considering as it prepares to set its 2024/25 budget in the new year.

The potential move was aired during a WCC budget scrutiny task group meeting, in which the council’s environment, climate, and public protection (ECPP) directorate, covering services such as highways, waste and parking, was reviewed. 

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According to a report compiled for the task group, while the ECPP is expected to make a net contribution of £3.5million in 2023/24, it is heavily reliant on fees and charges. In total, these makeup £108.5m of its £136m total income, 67% of which is from parking. Parking also contributes to the fines and penalty charges collected by the council, which, at £20.3m, is the second largest area of income for the ECPP.

Frances Martin, executive director of the ECPP, told the scrutiny task group that the income from parking is anticipated to plateau and eventually drop due to changes such as increasing active travel.

One of the proposals included in the report, and the largest in terms of projected income, is the introduction of new charging structures based on vehicles’ emissions. Currently, the council implements a “diesel surcharge”, though it is nothing like the “petrol surcharge” rolled out in boroughs such as Islington, which is based on the carbon dioxide emissions of a vehicle.

The report describes the initiative as designed “to improve air quality and reduce vehicle emissions by encouraging use & ownership of less polluting/discouraging more polluting vehicles”, and is expected to bring in an additional £2.9m from 2024/25 to 2026/27.

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Ms Martin told the scrutiny group: “The way it’s modelled at the moment is partly why we’re trying to introduce emissions-based charging because it’s not just about air quality, it’s about managing congestion on our roads. So we are looking at alternative ways, at things like charging for electric vehicles on-street and getting some income from that is a way we are trying to look to mitigate some of the falling income levels and being a bit more creative about how we can try and maintain levels of income while changes of travel habits [continue].”

WCC was asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service whether there is any indication as to what the tiers and associated charges may be, but it did not respond.

Beyond parking, other measures proposed in the report include reducing the number of street sweepers during quieter months, increasing fees and charges across all areas, and looking at contract efficiencies.

As well as the ECPP, the budget scrutiny task group has reviewed key service areas including housing and children’s services. A budget scrutiny task group review is then penned in for January 25, before the proposed budget for 2024/25 goes to cabinet and finally council on March 6.

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