Political and Constitutional Reform CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by City of London Corporation

This letter responds to the recent invitation to submit written evidence to the above inquiry. It is widely recognised that the majority of the mechanisms for the delivery of local services by local authorities are the result of national decision making. Such mechanisms are not always appropriate for implementation in the City, especially if, when designing these mechanisms, there is little or no scope for local flexibility.

As the Committee may be aware, the atypical nature of the administration of the City of London necessarily means that direct comparison with practices in the London boroughs, or local government more generally, is limited. By way of example, spending on education and social services usually represents the largest component of a London Borough’s budget but in the City of London this element represents a fraction of the City’s “local authority” spending. In contrast, the largest proportion of government grant to the Common Council (which exercises the functions of a local authority and police authority in the City) is for the police, a function which is not exercised by the boroughs or, for that matter, local authorities outside the capital.

The distinctiveness of the City Corporation’s internal management and representational basis makes apparent the difficulty of attempting successfully to shoehorn the City into general internal management provisions applying to statutory local authorities. For this reason, the City has been afforded provision in a range of statutes which allow for the City to achieve the same policy objectives as in other authorities but in a way most suitable to the City’s internal structures.

The executive arm of the City which undertakes local authority functions conferred by Parliament is the Court of Common Council. The Committees of the Common Council deal with particular subject or policy areas, whether they derive from local authority or other powers vested in the City. The members of the Common Council’s Committees are not elected on a local government franchise under the Representation of the People Acts, but by a franchise set down by a combination of private parliamentary acts and the City’s own legislative instruments, enacted by a procedure somewhat like Parliament’s. Most of the members of the Common Council are elected on a business franchise which gives incorporated bodies an entitlement to appoint representatives as business voters based on the number of people employed. Such an arrangement does not, of course, exist at all in respect of statutory local authorities. In consequence the interests which most Committee members represent, and thus their accountability, is not (as in statutory local authorities) to residents, but to business. As with the statutory local authorities therefore, “local” services in the City of London include those for the small residential population but, unlike other areas, most services are geared toward the running of the City as centre of international business.

30 November 2010

Prepared 28th January 2013