Opinion

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Does Sadiq Khan care about business?

4 Mins

Pimlico Plumbers boss, Charlie Mullins discusses London Mayor Sadiq Khan and whether he really is an advocate for business…

The thought that we’re all in this together couldn’t have even crossed London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s mind when he announced a 30% increase in the congestion charge from June.

Having gone cap in hand to central government for a £1.6bn bailout of Transport for London, the Mayor then quickly turned his sights on the hard-pressed businesses and workers of the capital to pull in some more cash.

His reasoning is to prevent the roads from becoming ‘unusably busy’, but it’s just an excuse to pick the pockets of Londoners.

The rise from £11.50 to £15 and an extension of the hours of operation from June 22 was wrapped up in an announcement that the charge would be reinstated last week after it was scrapped during the lockdown.

Charges for driving into the centre of London are normally only enforced on weekdays between 7am and 6pm, but Khan is planning to extend this to between 7am and 10pm, seven days a week.

Raising the charge to £15 is bad enough, but extending the hours is scandalous.

All businesses have taken a beating from the coronavirus, but the Mayor has kicked us while we’re down, which is disgraceful.

It proves Khan has no business sense. This is the wrong thing to do, at the wrong time. Just because we are starting to see more business activity in our streets it doesn’t mean that everything is back to normal!

Businesses that have managed to survive the pandemic so far are struggling and adding to their costs in the very early days of a post-lockdown economy is madness.

The Congestion Charge, including the toxicity charge, costs Pimlico hundreds of thousands every year due to the size of our fleet. Plenty of other businesses will be paying out huge amounts relative to their size and now is the time to control overheads, not see them escalate!

There is plenty of opposition to Khan’s plans, not least from certain corners of Westminster, including Chingford MP and former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

He has highlighted the contradiction between government guidelines to not use public transport and the Mayor’s plans to reintroduce the charges.

Workers are told to avoid public transport to prevent further spread of the virus, but if you have to travel any distance into London then car is really the only other option and plays right into Khan’s plans and wallet!

I also agree with AA president Edmund King who said that extending the charge to weekends was difficult to justify due to low traffic levels and simply demonstrates the Mayor’s intention to change it from a congestion charge to a taxation.

And extra tax is the last thing we need at the moment. It will stretch businesses to the limit and test the finances of hard-pressed workers.

The prime minister has talked about taking baby steps out of lockdown, the Mayor has instead stomped all over businesses with his size 10s.

I hope he can see send and change his mind otherwise he will have a lot less companies around to actually pay the charge!

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