Private hire drivers who blockaded London Bridge in congestion charge protests in previous weeks have now vowed legal action against Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) announced this morning that it had delivered a pre-action letter to the Mayor’s office over the proposed introduction of an £11.50 congestion charge for minicabs.
The letter gives the Mayor until March 6 to abandon the proposed policy, the union said, or legal action will be formally launched.
The union argues the congestion charge change breaks equalities law, as it indirectly discriminates against minicab drivers who are predominantly from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, while black cab drivers, who are more likely to be white, are exempt.
The policy would breach of a number of European Convention of Human Rights articles, said the union, including property rights.
Muhumed Ali, a committee member of an affiliated union, said Uber drivers like himself were being squeezed from both sides.
“On one side we have the company that keeps us earning poverty wages and now, on the other, we have the TfL and Mayor Sadiq Khan looking to charge us £11.50 when we go into central London.
“It is completely discriminatory that we have to pay this charge while black cabs continue to be exempt.”
He vowed: “If Sadiq Khan doesn’t reverse this policy we will continue to fight it in the courts and in the streets.”
But a Mayoral spokesperson said the Mayor “simply isn’t prepared” to ignore the impact increasing numbers of private hire vehicles had on air pollution.
“The number of Private Hire Vehicles entering the Congestion Charge zone has shot up from 4,000 a day in 2003 when it first came into operation, to more than 18,000 now,” the spokesperson said.
“Congestion has a crippling impact on businesses across the capital. At the same time, our toxic air in London is a major public health crisis that is stunting the lung development of our children, leading to thousands of premature deaths and increases the risk of asthma and dementia.
“Most other motorists, from private cars to small business owners, are liable for the Congestion Charge. Removing the Congestion Charge exemption for private hire vehicles is a key part of our plans to both reduce congestion and to protect Londoners from harmful emissions from polluting vehicles.”
Only a third of private hire vehicles drove into the charging zone, and drivers could switch to a cleaner vehicle with a Mayoral discount, Mr Khan’s office said.
The News this week reported of the 44 pollution hotspots across Southwark which broke clean air quality targets – some surrounding the borough’s schools.
Spots on Tower Bridge Road and Peckham High Street were among the top ten polluted locations in London according to the research.