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Local government in London

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Greater London shown within England.
Greater London shown within England.
City Hall at night, the headquarters of the GLA.
City Hall at night, the headquarters of the GLA.

Local government in London takes place in two tiers; a citywide, strategic tier and a local tier. Citywide administration is coordinated by the Greater London Authority (GLA), while local administration is carried out by 33 smaller authorities.[1]

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  • The (Secret) City of London, Part 2: Government
  • Local government in England
  • Local Government: Should there be place for it in the UK constitution?


The City of London is a unique place -- it's the city in a city (in a country in a country) that runs its government with perhaps the most complicated elections in the world involving medieval guilds, modern corporations, mandatory titles and fancy hats, all of which are connected in this horrifying org chart. Why so complicated? Though the new Skyscrapers might make you think the City of London is relatively young, it's actually the oldest continuous government on the Island of Great Britain. The City of London predates the Empire that Victoria ruled, the Kingdoms Anne united and the Magna Carta that John, reluctantly, signed. While the London which surrounds the city only got to electing its first Mayor in 2000, the list of Mayors who've governed the City of London is almost 700 people long going back more than a thousand years. The City of London's government is so old there's no surviving record of when it was born -- there are only documents, like the Magna Carta, which mention the pre-existing powers the City of London already had at that time. While a government like the United States's officially gets its power from the people, and Parliament gets its power from the Crown, (which in turn gets it from God), the City of London gets its power from 'time immemorial' meaning that the City is so old, it just is. And that age brings with it unusual and complicated traditions, the most notable of these, perhaps, is that in city of London elections, companies get votes. Quite a lot actually, about 3/4th of the votes cast in City elections are from companies with the remaining 1/4th from residents. The way it works is that the bigger a company is the more votes it gets from the City of London. The companies then give their votes to select employees who work, but do not live, within the city and it's these employees who do the actual voting at election time. The result is that the Common Council, the bureaucratic beating heart of the City of London, has about 20 common councilors elected by residents of the city and about 80 elected by companies of the city. The reasoning behind this unusual tradition is that for every 1 person who lives in the City of London, 43 people commute in every day. In total that's 300,000 commuters using City services and whose employment depends on the City of London being business friendly. The man in charge of the common council and who heads The City's government is The Right Honorable, the Lord Mayor of London. Now, suppose *you* want to be Lord Mayor, Surely, just as in that other London all you'll need do is a) Be a British, Commonwealth, or EU citizen, who has b) lived in the city for a year, and who c) wins the election Right? No, in The City of London, that's not nearly enough. Ready for the qualifications list? Before you even run for Lord Mayor you need have been a Sheriff of The City of London. But before you can be Sheriff, you need to be an Aldermen. What's an Aldermen? Well, the City of London is divided into 25 wards, and each Ward elects one Aldermen to represent it on the Court of Aldermen -- a sub-section of the common council. Before you can run for Alderman, you need to gain Freeman Status... and who gives out freeman status? Why none other than the very Court of Aldermen you're trying to get elected to. Which might just seem like a conflict of interest. Luckily there is another way to get the freeman status -- join one of the City's Guilds -- sadly, they aren't called guilds, they're called Livery Companies (a name which is both more boring and less descriptive), but the remnants of medieval guilds many of them are and within the City there are 108 of them to choose from including, but not limited to, The Apothecaries The Fishmongers The Masons The Mercers The Scientific Instrument Makers The Bankers The Shipwrights The Wheelwrights The Butchers, The bakers, *Two* different candlestick makers, and the most exciting of all: The Chartered Accountants! Many of these guilds, like the Fletchers, have become charities, but some are still active, such as the Goldsmiths who test the quality of British coinage and the Hackney carriage drivers who license taxi drivers. To join one of these guilds you'll either need to meet the professional requirements, or for the charities like the Haberdashers you'll need the approval of two existing members, others won't tell you how to become a members. If, you meet none of the Livery Companies membership requirements, but you think you'll be a clever clogs and start your *own* Livery Company and grant *yourself* freeman status, tough luck because new Livery Companies need to be approved by, you guessed it, the Court of Aldermen. But let's assume one way or another you get the official freeman status certificate, now you can finally run for Aldermen of a Ward -- after the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee also approves of you. But, that small barrier passed, you can win election as Aldermen in either one of the 4 wards where people live or the 21 wards where companies live. Once on the court of aldermen to continue your path to the Mayor's Office in Guildhall, you must now be elected as sheriff, but this time it's the members of the Livery Companies who pick the sheriffs. So *if* the Livery Company members elect you as Sheriff, *after* you have successfully completed your term *then* you can finally run for Mayor. But, surprisingly the, residents of the City of London don't vote for the Mayor, our old friends on the Court of Aldermen do. So in summary, once you get freeman status from either the court of aldermen or the livery companies and after your ward elected you as alderman and then the livery companies elect you as sheriff and after your term as sheriff ends but while you're still on the court of aldermen then you can run for Mayor. And -- assuming the other aldermen select you, finally take your place as **The Right Honorable, The Lord Mayor of London** -- for one year, with no salary. And you have to cover your own expenses, which will be quite considerable as your new job consists mostly of making hundreds of speeches a year around the world promoting city business. But you do get that fancy hat, which just might make it all worth while.

Upper tier

The Greater London Authority consists of two elected parts. They are the Mayor of London, who has executive powers, and the London Assembly, who scrutinise the Mayor's decisions and can accept or reject his budget proposals each year. The GLA is responsible for strategic planning, policing, the fire service, most aspects of transport and economic development. It is a recent organisation, having been set up in 2000 to replace the similar Greater London Council (GLC) which had been abolished in 1986.[1] The headquarters of the GLA and the Mayor of London is at City Hall. The current Mayor of London is Sadiq Khan who was elected in 2016, replacing Boris Johnson, who served two terms.

Health services in London are managed by the national government through the National Health Service, which is controlled and administered in London by a single strategic health authority called NHS London.[2]

Lower tier

The 33 local authorities are the 32 London borough councils and the City of London Corporation.[1] They are responsible for local services not overseen by the GLA, such as local planning, schools, social services, local roads and refuse collection. The London boroughs each have a council made up from representatives from political parties and single issue organisations elected every four years by local residents

The City of London does not have a conventional local authority, but is governed by the historic City of London Corporation which is elected by both residents and businesses, and which has existed more or less unchanged since the Middle Ages. The head of the Corporation is the Lord Mayor of the City of London, which is a different position from that of Mayor of London. The City of London also has its own police force: The City of London Police, which is independent of the Metropolitan Police Service which covers the rest of Greater London. Within the City of London are two liberties, the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple, which are local authorities for most purposes to the present day.[3]

City of LondonCity of WestminsterKensington and ChelseaHammersmith and FulhamWandsworthLambethSouthwarkTower HamletsHackneyIslingtonCamdenBrentEalingHounslowRichmond upon ThamesKingstonMertonSuttonCroydonBromleyLewishamGreenwichBexleyHaveringBarking and DagenhamRedbridgeNewhamWaltham ForestHaringeyEnfieldBarnetHarrowHillingdonLondon-boroughs.svg
About this image
  1. City of London
  2. City of Westminster
  3. Kensington and Chelsea
  4. Hammersmith and Fulham
  5. Wandsworth
  6. Lambeth
  7. Southwark
  8. Tower Hamlets
  9. Hackney
  10. Islington
  11. Camden
  12. Brent
  13. Ealing
  14. Hounslow
  15. Richmond
  16. Kingston
  17. Merton
  18. Sutton
  19. Croydon
  20. Bromley
  21. Lewisham
  22. Greenwich
  23. Bexley
  24. Havering
  25. Barking and Dagenham
  26. Redbridge
  27. Newham
  28. Waltham Forest
  29. Haringey
  30. Enfield
  31. Barnet
  32. Harrow
  33. Hillingdon


  1. ^ a b c History and general information. Archived 2008-02-23 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2007-08-17.
  2. ^ Strategic Health Authorities > Map Search {London} Archived 2006-01-29 at the Wayback Machine, National Health Service. Retrieved on 2007-01-09.
  3. ^ Middle Temple Archived 2012-09-30 at the Wayback Machine as a local authority
This page was last edited on 24 April 2020, at 07:51
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