City of London Corporation

City of London Corporation
Corporation of London
City of London Corporation
The Corporation's logo is a stylised form of the coat of arms of the City of London
Type Local authority of City of London
Lord Mayor Michael Bear
since 12 November 2010
Town Clerk Chris Duffield
since 1 September 2003
Policy Chairman Stuart Fraser
since 17 April 2008
Finance Chairman Roger Chadwick
since 14 April 2011
Chief Commoner Richard Regan
since 7 April 2011
Members 100 Common Councilmen
25 Aldermen
Court of Aldermen Political groups All Independent
Court of Common Council Political groups All Independent
Court of Aldermen Committees Privileges Committee, General Purposes Committee
Court of Common Council committees Policy & Resources Committee, Finance Committee, Investment Committee, Planning & Transportation Committee, Port Health & Environmental Services Committee, Markets Committee, Police Committee, Culture Heritage & Libraries Committee, Community & Children's Services Committee, Gresham Committee, Epping Forest & Commons Committee, Open Spaces Committee, Establishment Committee, Barbican Residential Committee, Hampstead Heath Committee, City Bridge Trust Committee, Standards Committee, Licensing Committee, Audit & Risk Management Committee, Boards: City of London School, City of London School for Girls, City of London Freemen's School, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Barbican Centre, Museum of London
Court of Aldermen Last election Varies - individual mandate, up to 6 year term of office
Court of Common Council Last election March 2009 - 4 year term of office
Meeting place
Guildhall, London
City Hall

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Coat of arms of the City of London as shown on Blackfriars station. The Latin motto reads Domine Dirige Nos, "Lord, guide us".

The City of London Corporation (also known as the Corporation of London)[1] is the municipal governing body of the City of London. It exercises control only over the City (the "Square Mile", so called for its approximate area), and not over Greater London. It has three main aims: to promote the city as the world's leading international financial and business centre; to provide local government services; and to provide a range of additional services for the benefit of London, Londoners and the nation.

The City of London Corporation is formally named the Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London, thus including the Lord Mayor, the Court of Aldermen, the Court of Common Council and the Freemen and Livery of the City.



In Anglo-Saxon times, communication and consultation between the city's rulers and its citizens took place at the Folkmoot. Administration and judicial processes were conducted at the Court of Husting and the non-legal part of the court's work evolved into the Court of Aldermen.[2]

There is no surviving record of a charter first establishing the corporation as a legal body, but the city is regarded as incorporated by prescription, meaning that the law presumes it to have been incorporated because it has for so long been regarded as such even in the absence of written documentation.[3] The corporation's first recorded royal charter dates from around 1067, when William the Conqueror granted the citizens of London a charter confirming the rights and privileges that they had enjoyed since the time of Edward the Confessor. Numerous subsequent royal charters over the centuries confirmed and extended the citizens' rights.[4]

Around 1189, the city gained the right to have its own mayor, eventually coming to be known as the Lord Mayor of London. Over time, the Court of Aldermen sought increasing help from the city's commoners and this was eventually recognised with commoners being represented by the Court of Common Council, known by that name since at least as far back as 1376.[5]

With growing demands on the corporation and a corresponding need to raise local taxes from the commoners, the Common Council grew in importance and has been the principal governing body of the corporation since the 18th century.

In 1897, the Common Council gained the right to collect local rates when it took over the powers and duties of the City Commissioners of Sewers.

The corporation is unique among UK local authorities for its continuous legal existence over many centuries, and for having the power to alter its own constitution, which is done by an Act of Common Council.[6]

Local authority role

Local government legislation often makes special provision for the City to be treated as a London borough and for the Common Council to act as a local authority. The Corporation does not have general authority over the Middle Temple and the Inner Temple, two of the Inns of Court adjoining the west of the City which are historic extra-parochial areas, but many statutory functions of the Corporation are extended into these two areas.

The Chief Executive of the administrative side of the Corporation holds the ancient office of Town Clerk of London.

An attempt at reform was made, intending to amalgamate the corporation with the local government structures serving the rest of London at the end of the 19th century. A Royal Commission on the Amalgamation of the City and County of London reported a mechanism for this to be achieved in 1894. However, this proposed reform failed. The City also avoided major modernising in the London Government Act 1963, where it the was the only one of the 33 London local authorities not to be a London Borough.


The City of London Corporation was not reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, nor by subsequent legislation, and with time has become increasingly anomalous. In 1801 the City had a population of about 130,000, but increasing development of the City as a central business district led to this falling to below 5,000 after the Second World War.[7] It has risen slightly to around 9,000 since, largely due to the development of the Barbican Estate.

Therefore the non-residential vote (or business vote), which had been abolished in the rest of the country in 1969, became an increasingly large part of the electorate. The non-residential vote system used disfavoured incorporated companies. The City of London (Ward Elections) Act 2002 greatly increased the business franchise, allowing many more businesses to be represented. In 2009 the business vote was about 24,000, greatly exceeding residential voters.[8]


Eligible voters must be at least 18 years old and a citizen of the United Kingdom, a European Union country, or a Commonwealth country, and either:

Each body or organisation, whether unincorporated or incorporated, whose premises are within the City of London may appoint a number of voters based on the number of workers it employs. Limited liability partnerships fall into this category.

Bodies employing fewer than ten workers may appoint one voter, those employing ten to fifty workers may appoint one voter for every five; those employing more than fifty workers may appoint ten voters and one additional voter for every fifty workers beyond the first fifty.

Though workers count as part of a workforce regardless of nationality, only certain individuals may be appointed as voters. Under section 5 of the City of London (Ward Elections) Act 2002, the following are eligible to be appointed as voters (the qualifying date is September 1 of the year of the election):

  • Those who have worked for the body for the past year at premises in the City
  • Those who have served on the body's Board of Directors for the past year at premises in the City
  • Those who have worked in the City for the body for an aggregate total of five years
  • Those who have worked for in the City for a total of ten years

Qualified voters can vote twice, once at local government elections in the City and once at local government elections in the district where their home address is situated. Residents of the City can only vote once.


The City of London is divided into twenty-five wards, each of which is an electoral division, electing one Alderman and a number of Councilmen based on the size of the electorate. The numbers below reflect the changes caused by the City of London (Ward Elections) Act.

Ward Common Councilmen
Aldersgate 5
Aldgate 5
Bassishaw 3
Billingsgate 2
Bishopsgate 8
Bread Street 2
Bridge 2
Broad Street 3
Candlewick 2
Castle Baynard 7
Cheap 2
Coleman Street 5
Cordwainer 3
Cornhill 2
Cripplegate 9
Dowgate 2
Farringdon Within 8
Farringdon Without 10
Langbourn 2
Lime Street 3
Portsoken 4
Queenhithe 2
Tower 5
Vintry 2
Walbrook 2
Total 100

Livery companies

There are over one hundred livery companies in London. The companies were originally guilds or trade associations; in modern times, much of their role is ceremonial. The senior members of the livery companies, known as liverymen, form a special electorate known as Common Hall. Common Hall is the body that chooses the Lord Mayor of the City, the sheriffs and certain other officers.

The Court of Aldermen

Wards originally elected aldermen for life, but the term is now only six years. The alderman may, if he chooses, submit to an election before the six-year period ends. In any case, an election must be held no later than six years after the previous election. The sole qualification for the office is that Aldermen must be Freemen of the City.

Aldermen are ex officio Justices of the Peace. All Aldermen also serve in the Court of Common Council.

The Court of Common Council

The north wing of Guildhall, which houses most of the administration of the City.

The Court of Common Council, also known as the Common Council of the City of London, is formally referred to as the mayor, aldermen, and commons of the City of London in common council assembled.[9]

Each ward may choose a number of common councilmen. A Common Councilman must be a registered voter in a City ward, own a freehold or lease land in the City, or reside in the City for the year prior to the election. He must also be over 21; a Freeman of the City; and a British, Irish, Commonwealth or EU citizen. Common Council elections are held every four years, most recently in March 2009. Common Councilmen may use the initials CC after their names.

The Common Council is the police authority for the City of London,[10] a police area that covers the City including the Inner Temple & Middle Temple and which has its own police force — the City of London Police — separate to the Metropolitan Police, which polices the remainder of Greater London.

The Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs

The Lord Mayor of London and the two Sheriffs are chosen by liverymen meeting in Common Hall. Sheriffs, who serve as assistants to the Lord Mayor, are chosen on Midsummer Day. The Lord Mayor, who must have previously been a Sheriff, is chosen on Michaelmas. Both the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs are chosen for terms of one year.

The Lord Mayor fulfills several roles:

The ancient and continuing office of Lord Mayor of London (with responsibility for the City of London) should not be confused with the office of Mayor of London (responsible for the whole of Greater London and created in 2000).

Ceremonies and traditions

The City of London has a strong collection of ceremonies. Its policy head says "it is undoubtedly the case that we have more tradition and pageantry than most"[11], for example the yearly Lord Mayor's Show.

Tax journalist Nicholas Shaxson said: "Whenever the Queen makes a state entry to the City, she meets a red cord raised by City police at Temple Bar, and then engages in a col­ourful ceremony involving the lord mayor, his sword, assorted aldermen and sheriffs, and a character called the Remembrancer. In this ceremony, the lord mayor recognises the Queen's authority, but the relationship is complex: as the corporation itself says: "The right of the City to run its own affairs was gradually won as concessions were gained from the Crown.""[12]

Conservation areas and green spaces

The City of London Corporation maintains around 10,000 acres (40 km2) of public green spaces[13] - mainly conservation areas / nature reserves - in Greater London and the surrounding counties. The most well-known of the conservation areas are Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest. Other areas include Ashtead Common, Burnham Beeches, Highgate Wood and the South London Commons (six commons on the southern fringe of London).[14]

Unusually, the Corporation also runs the unheated Parliament Hill Lido, as it is part of Hampstead Heath inherited from the London Residuary Body in 1989.

The City also owns and manages two traditional city parks: Queen's Park and West Ham Park as well as over 150 smaller public green spaces.


The City of London has only one directly-maintained primary school.[15] The school is called the Sir John Cass's Foundation Primary School (ages 4 to 11).[16] The school is the only voluntary-aided Church of England primary school in the City of London. The school is maintained by the Education Service of the City of London.

City of London residents may send their children to schools in neighbouring Local Education Authorities (LEAs).

For secondary schools children enroll in schools in neighbouring LEAs, such as Islington, Tower Hamlets, Westminster and Southwark. Children who have permanent residence in the city of London are eligible for transfer to the City of London Academy, an independent secondary school sponsored by the City of London that is located in Southwark.

The City of London controls three other independent schools — the City of London School for Boys, the City of London School for Girls, and the co-educational City of London Freemen's School. The Lord Mayor also holds the posts of Chancellor of City University and President of Gresham College, an institute of advanced study.

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is owned and funded by the Corporation.


The City of London Corporation has been criticised for being undemocratic and a privileged haven for banks, financial institutions and big businesses. Critics see it as an old boys' network. Its electoral system has been branded "plutocratic", it has been branded a tax haven, and its City Cash and Remembrancer have been criticised.

Business votes

The City has come under criticism for the determining role of business votes over the residential vote: businesses in the City have around 24,000 votes, dwarfing the residents' 8,000 votes.[8] Tax justice campaigner Nicholas Shaxson said: "Voting would reflect the wishes not of the City's 300,000 workers, but of corporate managements. So Goldman Sachs and the People's Bank of China would get to vote".[17] Journalist George Monbiot complained: "It's not the workers who decide how the votes are cast, but the bosses, who "appoint" the voters. Plutocracy, pure and simple."[18]

Old boys' network

"Nowadays, with its Lord Mayor, its Beadles, Sheriffs and Aldermen, its separate police force and its select electorate of freemen and liverymen, the City of London is an anachronism of the worst kind. The Corporation, which runs the City like a one-party mini-state, is an unreconstructed old boys' network whose medievalist pageantry camouflages the very real power and wealth which it holds." - pp110, Rough Guide to England, 2006

"The corporation is a group of hangers-on, who create what is known as the best dining club in the City ... a rotten borough." - John McDonnell, during the debates on the Ward Elections Act.[19]

City Cash

The Corporation has been criticised for its secrecy due to it being exempt from freedom of information legislation, for example relating to its opaque private fund, the City Cash.[17] Shaxson alleges that the fund "helps buy off dissent"[12] and Monbiot claims that "it can spend as it wishes, without democratic oversight. As well as expanding its enormous property portfolio, it uses this money to lobby on behalf of the banks".[18]

Further criticism of the Corporation was raised during the Occupy London protests in that area in 2011, in which journalist George Monbiot claimed that the City of London is "the only part of Britain over which parliament has no authority" and that the mayor of London's mandate stops "at the boundaries of the Square Mile".[18] These claims were robustly denied by the head of policy at the Corporation.[11]


Campaigner Nicholas Shaxson calls the Remembrancer the City's "official lobbyist in parliament"; the Remembrancer is privileged to sit opposite the Speaker in the House of Commons.[12] However, his official role is to "maintain and enhance the City's status and ensure that its established rights are safeguarded".[17]

See also


  1. ^ The body was popularly known as the Corporation of London but on 10 November 2005 the Corporation announced that its informal title would from 3 January 2006 be the City of London (or the City of London Corporation where the corporate body needed to be distinguished from the geographical area). This may reduce confusion between the Corporation and the Greater London Authority.
  2. ^ "The Court of Common Council". City of London Corporation. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Lambert, Matthew (2010). "Emerging First Amendment Issues. Beyond Corporate Speech: Corporate Powers in a Federalist System". Rutgers Law Record 37 (Spring): 24. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  4. ^ "Corporation of London: Administrative history". The National Archives. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  5. ^ "History of the Government of the City of London". Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  6. ^ London Metropolitan Archives Information Leaflet Number 13
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b René Lavanchy (February 12, 2009). "Labour runs in City of London poll against ‘get-rich’ bankers". Tribune. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  9. ^ Example usage: interpretation clause in the Open Spaces Act 1906.
  10. ^ Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ a b c Nicholas Shaxson,
  13. ^
  14. ^ Corporation of London Open Spaces
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b c The Guardian 31 October 2011
  18. ^ a b c Monbiot, George (Monday 31 October). "The medieval, unaccountable Corporation of London is ripe for protest". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  19. ^ Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 2 November 1999, column 169.

External links

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