At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, politicians were quick to acknowledge the key role that logistics workers play in the ongoing health of our economy. Yet as businesses start to re-open after lockdown, FTA, the business group representing the logistics sector, is concerned that this recognition of the industry’s role has been forgotten for the sake of political expediency.
“It is often said that a week is a long time in politics,” says Natalie Chapman, Head of Urban Policy at FTA, “in which case the eight weeks of lockdown is an eternity. And it appears that politicians at a national and local level have all forgotten the vital role which logistics workers have played in keeping our cities and businesses stocked with everything they need. The latest round of punitive taxes, re-imposed with little or no notice on those working hard to keep the country trading, totally ignore the work of our sector, and feel like a sucker punch to businesses which have themselves felt the impact of the outbreak on their trading performance.
“Rather than reintroducing the London Lorry Control Scheme and putting the London Congestion Charge back into action overnight, at an inflated price and for longer hours, surely our politicians should be working to assist the businesses in their area to continue working as the economy cranks back to life? With reduced access to road space, thanks to increased parking and cycling allocations in major cities such as London, and condensed hours in which to deliver, as charging zones are extended in time and area, now is the time to be helping logistics operators to get back on their feet by providing the access they need without the fear of excessive taxation.”
As Ms Chapman continues, FTA is well aware of the pressures on administrators to maintain improvements in air quality and road access for all, but is questioning the timing of the reintroduction of these schemes, and the motivations behind them;
“We appreciate the need to ensure access for all to the capital’s roads, and to other conurbations across the country,” she says, “but these reintroductions of charging schemes seem to have come in too soon. In our opinion, freight should be exempt from schemes such as the Congestion Charge, and should certainly not be fighting above inflation price increases brought in at the eleventh hour – there is little alternative to road access to supply the capital and other big cities with the products and services its businesses need to kickstart their recovery. This is simply a stealth tax on those who only weeks ago were deemed ‘essential’ to the country’s recovery – how quickly they forget.”
FTA has written to Sadiq Khan to express the disappointment of its members at the reintroduction and extension of the London Congestion Charge but has yet to receive a response.