London’s Police Officers have demanded that the Mayor reverses his controversial decision not to include the police in the capitals congestion charge exemption for emergency workers.
The government has told people to avoid using public transport, meaning that many police officers have resorted to using their private vehicles to get to work.
The Metropolitan Police Federation and the City of London Police Federation – which represent tens of thousands of Police Officers in London – say their members are furious at the decision from Sadiq Khan which they say shows Brave Bobbies are not deemed “key workers” in the eyes of City Hall.
In a letter sent to the London Mayor, the Staff Associations have now urged Mr Khan to think again, describing the Congestion Charge snub to Police Officers risking their safety protecting the public during the Covid-19 pandemic as “inexcusable”.
The letter – jointly sent from MPF Chairman Ken Marsh and City Police Federation Mike Reed – states:
“The Police Officers we represent have without hesitation performed their duty as asked of them by the government to support the wellbeing of the public and limit the spread of this deadly virus.
“In the initial phase of the pandemic, they often did this with little or no Personal Protective Equipment and scant guidance of their role. The Police Service has been portrayed as the villain in the national response to combat the virus by certain press outlets, but still [officers] turn up to work and deal with this on top of the everyday policing that has not disappeared.
“Police Officers take their own and indeed the safety of the public seriously. Officers have resorted to driving into work to avoid public transport that is often busy and crowded. They do this not for their own comfort but to ensure that they are fit and available for work and to mitigate the spreading of the virus.
“It must be wrong that these Officers are now expected to pay the fee that others are exempt from [as they] follow Government guidance of remaining off public transport and stopping the risk of them infecting the commuting community.”
Firefighter* and emergency ambulance crews are exempt from the £15-per-day charge, as are NHS staff.
But this means that police officers have been left out of the controversial hike meaning that they are the only part of the 999 services in London who will still have to pay around £300 each month just to drive to work as they adhere to the government’s guidance to avoid using public transport.
The letter adds:
“Police Officers must attend incidents where breaches of social distancing are reported, calls for assistance by members of the public and where ambulances are not readily available to give first aid.
“In short Officers must meet and engage with those that are willfully flaunting the restrictions and deal with others outside their family units without the reassurance of knowing the history of those people. This places them at a higher risk of contracting and of course, passing on the virus.
“It is therefore inexcusable for them to find out that they are now as Police Officers the only Blue Light Service not to be afforded the same status as other emergency services, in relation to the [Congestion Charge] exemption offered.
“We would invite you to reconsider your decision to charge Police Officers working in London the congestion and emissions tariffs and bring them in line with NHS workers, Ambulance staff, Care Home employees and the London Fire Brigade.”
Mike Reed, Chairman of the City of London Police Federation, said:
“I don’t think you would be able to find one of my members who would not recognise the exceptional work our NHS colleagues have performed during this period and we thank them for the care that they have provided, even to some of our own, but the rationale that has been provided by the Mayor’s Office for Police Officers being excluded from the Congestion Charge “keyworker exemption” doesn’t add up.
“It is not right, and it is not fair. Police Officers should not be financially penalised for travelling to their shifts in a safe manner to protect the public.”
Ken Marsh, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said:
“Police Officers are appalled by this snub. Since the beginning of this pandemic, our colleagues in London have worked tirelessly to keep the public safe at no small risk to themselves.
“For Police Officers to be told they now have to pay the Congestion Charge when other key workers have been handed an exemption by City Hall is a huge slap in the face. We urge the Mayor to do the right thing. This decision must be reversed.”
The Congestion Charge reimbursement scheme remains for NHS staff, ambulance staff and care home workers because – according to the office of the Mayor of London – there is a “greater need for them to travel to work by car to reduce the risk of them coming into contact with others, having been exposed to potentially high levels of infection.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London told Emergency Services News:
“As part of the recent funding deal the Government made TfL reintroduce the Congestion Charge and ULEZ, as well as demanding plans to widen the level and scope of the charge.
“The reimbursement scheme is focused upon reducing the risk of infection from those, such as NHS, ambulance staff and care home workers, whose work may bring them into close, regular contact with people with Covid-19 and therefore need to travel to work by car in order to reduce the risk of infecting others.
“The police and all our emergency services have done, and continue to do, a phenomenal job in responding to the impact of Covid-19 on London.”
*The spokesperson also added that London Fire Brigade staff ‘not exempt from the congestion charge’.
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