What’s the City Corporation for and why is it so unusual?
The City of London Corporation's distinctive major role is looking after the Square Mile business district around St Paul’s and it is so unusual because – over at least 800 years – it has acquired other roles and functions.
It is also unusual in that it is an elected body that predates local government and Parliament and has, mainly through the conservative management of assets, held on to its own endowments and other funds. See alongside and below for information about finances. By tradition, its elected councillors (known as 'Common Councilmen') do not stand on a party political basis – which means its agenda stays broadly the same.
Is the Square Mile under its own legal jurisdiction?
No. The Square Mile is fully subject to all UK laws. The City of London Corporation’s role – with the legislative support of Parliament - is to make its 82km of streets as attractive as possible for business.
All the Members (ie councillors) are elected and its committees meet in public, save the usual exceptions, and its produces many 1,000s of pages of reports into its plans, policies and spending – all on this website.
Who elects the Lord Mayor and what is the role of the Policy Chairman?
To become Lord Mayor, an alderman (a kind of City senator) must be elected three times: by their local ward, by the Livery as Sheriff and by fellow aldermen. This process – which includes assessment by outsiders – is designed to produce the best possible global ambassador for the UK-based financial services industry, as much of the annually elected Lord Mayor’s key work is in leading business delegations abroad – or meeting visiting political and business leaders.
The Policy and Resources Committee steers the policy of the City of London Corporation and its Chairman may serve for up to five years, elected annually. The Policy Chairman liaises with key national and local government figures.
Why is it non-party-political and why does it have a business vote?
There is no formal ban on political parties but in living memory the electorate has preferred to elect independents, possibly because this helps ensure continuity of policies. Both the 12,000 residents and the 300,000 workers (and their 6,000 employers) are represented through a carefully balanced voting system approved by Parliament in 2002. The voting system is designed to give a voice to business in one of the world’s leading business locations – while at the same time protecting the interests of residents.
Where does the money come from?
The City of London Corporation has three sources of finance: local government/revenue support, a charity fund based on bridge tolls raised over past centuries, and a long-established endowment fund. The revenue from these assets, plus the ‘rates’, plus various income sources, together pay for all our services and activities. Full spending details are available elsewhere on this website – as are committee reports and decisions re spending and activities. As a body that owns roughly one fifth of the Square Mile, the City of London Corporation is asset rich but currently the City of London Corporation is spending more than it receives – and it recently made 12% cutbacks. Income from the assets is spent either directly on public services or on facilities or services that enhance London, either as a place to visit or do business.