A drop in the number of vehicles paying to drive through the congestion charge does not mean there is less pollution, a politician claims.

Figures from Transport for London (TfL) show 1,800,000 vehicles paid to drive through the capital’s Congestion Charge zone in September this year.

That was the lowest number of cars recorded in the zone so far this year, and nearly 300,000 less than in September 2017.

But Green Party London Assembly member, Caroline Russell, claims this does not mean there are less vehicles driving in the zone as minicabs are exempt from paying.

Ms Russell said: “This big picture is it’s still very congested. We need to make more space for walking, cycling and public transport.”

She believes the answer to reducing congestion is a ‘smart road pricing’ system.

This would see people paying emissions depending on the type of car they have; how close into central London they drive and how long they drive for – instead of paying a single charge of £11.50.

Ms Russell said: “We need to disincentivise people, the Congestion Charge is a big clunky charge with no incentive to drive less.

“The Congestion Charge is a very blunt instrument because you pay it then you can drive in the congestion charging zone as much as you want.”

TfL is currently proposing to remove minicabs exemption from the Congestion Charge, something which Ms Russell agrees with.

But she says their operators should be the ones to foot the bill.

She added: “It is unfair not to make minicabs pay the charge, making them pay the charge won’t stop those vehicles driving in the Congestion Charge zone but it will mean they are paying their way and contributing to TfL’s income.

“We have too many health problems and too many people are obese or overweight. We need to make our streets a place where it is pleasant to walk.”

Paul Cowperthwaite, director of licensing, regulation and charging for TfL, said: “Over the last fifteen years the Congestion Charge has successfully reduced traffic and congestion in central London, which had reached severe levels, lowering the number of vehicles entering the zone by 60,000 per day.

“The scheme, along with record investment in walking and cycling, increased capacity on the Tube and the most reliable buses on record, have helped deliver an unprecedented 11 per cent shift from car use to public and other forms of sustainable transport.”