Many of my columns recently have necessarily focused on the vaccine rollout and our local response to Covid-19; however, following recent developments I wanted to respond to a concerning proposal from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
The Mayor has put forward a damaging and misguided plan to charge car drivers to enter London – a plan which is bad for London and bad for Sevenoaks. In normal times, there are vast numbers of Sevenoaks residents who travel in and out of London for work and leisure. However, under this new proposal every time someone crosses the border into Bromley or Bexley they face the prospect of a £3.50 daily charge, rising to £5.50 for older vehicles. If they then drive to central London, drivers could also be hit with the congestion charge and the ultra-low emissions zone meaning a total fee of at least £31 per visit. In its most basic form, this is a charge which would be imposed by the devolved London Mayor without any say from the people who will have to pay it.
Even at the best of times, such an additional cost would have far reaching impacts on family life and local businesses. However, in light of the restrictions we all continue to face as a result of the virus – be it businesses having to close or family and friends not being able to see one another - it is the height of folly.
Over the last week I have heard from many of you who care for elderly relatives who live in London, have regular hospital appointments in London or have children whose schools are in London. In fact, many of our front-line public-sector workers are amongst those who make the journey daily. Nurses, teachers, and care workers. This proposal will have a devastating impact on our community, and it cannot be allowed to go ahead.
While I understand that the finances of Transport for London (TfL) have been impacted by Covid-19, it is not right to make non-Londoners pay. We are repeatedly told our capital city is open for business – however it would appear now it is only open for those who are willing to pay for access.
I know my strength of feeling on this issue is also reflected across both Sevenoaks District Council and Kent County Council. I have written to the Mayor to express my deep opposition to the plans, and last week I met with Perry Cole, who is campaigning locally for Swanley and Hextable and has launched a petition opposing the charge. I would urge any of those residents who will be impacted to join the petition, which calls on the Mayor to put a stop to such plans: http://chng.it/cZPd9sQj
I will continue to work with local councillors and my MP colleagues in ensuring this proposal is rejected and hope to update you soon on progress.