London mayor Sadiq Khan blocks Ulez scrappage scheme used cars from helping Ukraine

  • Mayor’s refusal to help send cars destined for the scrapheap to Ukraine blasted ‘embarrassing’ 
  • Mayor says the scheme was designed to improve London air quality and cannot be changed
  • Mayor has written to Kyiv mayor to say he cannot help send used cars to country and instead they’ll be crushed 
  • Car dealers across the country have already donated vehicles to charity campaign following appeal (above)

Time 7:18 am, December 17, 2023

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s refusal to save used cars from the crusher and send them to Ukraine to help the war effort has been blasted by campaigners.

The used cars that have been exchanged for a £2,000 scrappage scheme discount to assist Londoners buy a ULEZ compliant car could have had a second life assisting the military effort in Ukraine.

Thousands of cars have already been donated to the Car4Ukraine campaign from the UK – including by many car dealers – who have sent 4×4 vehicles and pick-up trucks to the country to be converted to help the war effort.

Many of the cars scrapped by Londoners, as they fail to meet the strict ULEZ emissions levels, are just the sort of vehicles the charity wants.

The cars being scrapped in the capital are usually still serviceable, but London mayor Khan has blocked the plan to send them to Ukraine and instead opted to have them scrapped.

Richard Lofthouse, a campaigner who was in talks with the Mayor of London, said Khan needed to ‘find some courage to do the right thing’ blasting his position as ‘embarrassing’.  

A letter obtained by The Telegraph sent by Khan to Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said the reason he could not meet the request was because he believed it did not ‘meet the legal threshold’ that requires ULEZ scrappage scheme to be an ‘economic, social and environmental’ benefit to Londoners.

Some of the Car4Ukraine vehicles in active service

Khan’s letter said the scheme had been drawn up to ‘provide environmental benefits to Londoners’ and was designed to remove ‘the most polluting vehicles permanently from London’s roads’.

A spokesperson for the Mayor said: ‘Altering the scheme for the purpose of exporting vehicles to Ukraine is not possible.’

The newspaper spoke to a number of senior Conservatives who labelled Khan’s decision to block the export of the used cars as ‘astonishing’.

Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford, said: ‘Both London and the rest of the world will benefit from stopping tyrants like Putin succeeding in his aggressive actions.

‘I am gobsmacked. The vast majority of Londoners would want to see vehicles that can help the people of Ukraine in their difficult time. This is bureaucracy gone mad and it’s an astonishing decision by Sadiq Khan.’

Other European cities have donated hundreds of vehicles – including fire trucks, ambulances, buses and cars – with donations made by Barcelona, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Frankfurt, and others.

Lofthouse, who wrote about his efforts to take a Ford Ranger to Ukraine with a team of car dealers, told Car Dealer he has been in talks with the Mayor’s office for months. Below he explains why he was so disappointed his campaign has failed.

However, he said there was a silver lining because every time the cause hits the headlines, donations of vehicles to the charity rise.

Car dealers across the country have already donated vehicles to the Car4Ukriane appeal following a video interview Car Dealer ran with founder Ivan Oleksii a year ago. 

A team from used car dealer SUV Prestige drove a convoy of cars to donate to Ukraine in February. Car dealers can contact to donate vehicles or get in touch with Car Dealer using our details below to be connected with the team.

London has done nothing to helo Ukraine – and I find that embarrassing 

Campaigner Richard Lofthouse writes for Car Dealer about his frustration at London Mayor’s refusal to give scrappage scheme used cars a second life.

This really began in January when I bought a distressed sale Ford Ranger ahead of the ULEZ expansion. I began to think then how this might be the basis for a larger alteration of the scheme to allow Londoners to still pick up their subsidy, typically £2,000, but to offer their vehicle to Ukraine, the costs of transit borne by volunteers, not by taxpayers.

I was out in Kyiv as early as March and with the help of other Car4Ukraine volunteers like Patrick McIntyre persuaded the Kyiv Mayor to approach London. 

Weeks and weeks passed with no reply and then a polite ‘no’ came back from London to Kyiv in early June.

We had to start the process again. I only began to get some better debate around the time of the ULEZ expansion in the weeks leading up to August 29, and then an appearance on TalkTV and some questions placed at Mayoral Question Time by the Chair of the London Assembly, Andrew Boff. That prompted the London Mayor Sadiq Khan finally to instruct his officers to take a real look at it. 

I was invited with one other volunteer to attend a meeting on October 19. That seemed serious. Our hopes sky rocketed. 

But it quickly became apparent that our envisaged timeline and TfL’s were completely different. Weeks rolled by and we were totally excluded from whatever process was ongoing inside City Hall.

A Car4Ukraine vehicle in active service

There was only one other meeting in the end on December 13, by which time we already knew from other sources that we were going to get turned down.

The idea we had offered was a fast pilot of a dozen vehicles, with one of us helping Capita, the manager of the ULEZ scheme, to identify the best vehicles, you know, Chelsea tractors and pickups and the like. 

Then, we offered that we could scale it up to anywhere between 25-50 cars a month, which believe it or not is roughly how many vehicles are going over in UK convoys anyway – and that’s a conservative figure. 

Over several months I set an upper target of 1,000 vehicles out of maybe 40,000 that are going to be scrapped. The scrapyards would hardly notice. In the end we got absolutely nothing and weren’t even involved in the deliberation. 

Now that the scheme has just been squashed, a real debate has just erupted over the weekend and I welcome that. I don’t condone some of the online nastiness that has attended some of the posted comments against the London Mayor. This needs to remain a civil conversation. 

But I also wonder why Mr Khan decided not to kick a ball into an empty net when we bent over backwards to give him so many nets and so many balls. 

It has felt from the very first meeting that he doesn’t want to do this, which is strange – it’s Labour’s time to shine and he offered up his rejection in the same week that the Ukrainian President Zelensky was trying to overcome funding resistance in the US, coming not from the left but from the extreme right of the Republican party. 

What better time to take the initiative and beam out some light just before Christmas and after a punishing year for Ukraine? 

What’s more, this would be a comparatively minor gesture compared to staging the ULEZ in the first place, one of the most sophisticated schemes the world has ever seen.

Above all, I have been clear from the start that this is supposed to be a bipartisan subject. At the national level it is. Both the Conservatives and Labour claim equally to support Ukraine. 

The same sentiment prevails in City Hall and the London Assembly. By basically stonewalling the entire process Khan has set the Conservative hounds running. 

I can only say that is self-authored. He needs to find some courage and do the right thing, even if it’s at the level of a generous gesture of just a few dozen vehicles as a one-off. 

Instead we’ve had a whole string of performative statements from the Mayor saying again and again that Londoners are shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainians. The reality is that London, as opposed to individual Londoners, has done virtually nothing to help Ukraine and as a Londoner I find it embarrassing.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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