Last week rows over delays to the completion of Crossrail and its escalating cost resulted in newspaper column inches being devoted to disagreements between ‘Sir’ Terry Morgan and Sadiq Khan over when the latter was informed of these issues. We’d like to see more focus on the City of London connection. That the City was lobbying for Crossrail, and that this was to serve its own interests, is evident from a 2005 Observer profile of ‘Sir’ Michael Snyder:
What Snyder wants from government, even possibly more than an increased budget for the City of London police – which he concedes is ‘stretched’ – is a firm financial commitment to building Crossrail, a new train line linking Heathrow to the City, which would then split in two to go on to Stratford and Canary Wharf and beyond.
Cost estimates range from £8 billion to £12bn. Snyder, who puts the cost of the link at £7.7bn, says it would be impossible to calculate the exact figure.
‘I would dearly like them to announce the funding of Crossrail now, because I think it would be a clear signal to the rest of the world and the international financial community that the UK is absolutely right behind the City and London in this time of trial.’
The Corporation has been leading the campaign for the train link. But it is against landowners part-funding it, even though the line will bring a massive uplift in land values. This is unsurprising given that the Corporation owns huge tracts of land along the route. Instead he is advocating a 3 per cent hike on the business rate – a move that would hit occupiers. Many retailers, in particular, have taken a dim view of this.
Guard at the City Gates, Michael Snyder talks to Nick Mathiason, The Observer, 7 August 2005.
Snyder was head of the City of London’s Common Council between 2003 to 2008, when it made some significant moves to ensure Crossrail was rolled out. This is from a website article based on a programme made for BBC Radio 4’s The Report broadcast on Thursday 17 November 2011 at 20:00 GMT:
Details of a £250m deal between the City of London Corporation and the Labour government for the Crossrail project have been discovered by the BBC.
A 2007 corporation document sent to councillors set pre-conditions for the contribution from the corporation’s private funds to Crossrail.
In return, the government reinstated the “City Offset” fund from April 2010 for £10m a year.
The fund was cut by Labour in 2003.
“One of the conditions for us giving approval for this was the reinstatement by the government of the “offset”, said the corporation in a statement.
The City of London Corporation is the local authority for the square mile with its own schools and police force.
It is also responsible for the maintenance of open spaces including much of the area around St Paul’s Cathedral where it is fighting a legal battle to evict Occupy London protesters.
But it has another equally important role acting as cheerleader and lobbyist for the City of London both in the UK and internationally.
It does this with private funds believed to total around £1bn which are separate from the government funds it receives.
The Crossrail deal struck between the corporation and the Labour government highlights the blurring between the corporation’s two roles, that of a local authority with public funds and a lobbying body with even larger private funds.
An internal corporation document presented to councillors in October 2007 – seen by the BBC – stated that, “there would be a number of pre-conditions to be satisfied before funding was released”.
One of these was “a net real terms improvement in government funding of the City Corporation”.
The corporation wanted the government to reinstate a fund known as the “City Offset” which helps to pay for the local services it provides such as maintenance of Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath.
The corporation told the BBC that in return for its donation to Crossrail – which will connect Maidenhead in Berkshire with Shenfield in Essex, passing through London – the government agreed it would provide extra funding of around £10m a year from April 2010.
“The City Offset was re-instated by the previous government in 2007 following representations from the City of London Corporation,” said a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government…
This means the corporation could end up recouping much, if not all, of the money it is contributing to Crossrail.
As the internal corporation document the BBC has seen states, if the extra government funding to the corporation continued for fifteen years, “the eventual adverse impact on our asset base would be £15m or less”.
The chairman of the Corporation Policy Committee Stuart Fraser (said)….”The City’s cash is certainly not part of the local authority’s fund. It doesn’t come from government so why should we, in a sense, because it is not public money, it’s not been given to us by the government. This is private money,” he said.
Why the City of London Corporation supported Crossrail by Simon Cox BBC website, 18 November 2011.
It is not surprising that Fraser – like his successors and predecessors including Snyder – would seek to avoid a full examination of who City’s Cash really belongs to. It has been generated from assets assembled by the City of London before the capture of this body by the finance lobby, so ought to belong not to the top bankers and their friends who currently control it but the citizens of London. This is one of many reasons why the undemocratic business vote in the City of London needs to be abolished.
‘Sir’ Michael Snyder (centre) and fellow City of London councillor and freemason Shravan Joshi (right). Note Joshi’s cosplay gear indicates he is not a high ranking mason.
Snyder’s ongoing interest in Crossrail is evident from his current membership of The Crossrail Art Foundation. Aside from its role in artwashing and charitywashing the City of London’s neo-liberal lobbying activities, it should be clear from the above that much of what those controlling this body present as ‘giving’ activities are in reality simple self-interest. Something similar might be said of Snyder’s pursuit of freemasonry.
It comes as no surprise that Snyder is a freemason. More than a third of the city’s 120 councillors are, information that was revealed for the first time last year. For more than 700 years*, secrecy surrounding the relationship of freemasonry and the City has fed the suspicions of outsiders. But what is the reality – and what benefits, if any, does it bring?
‘To be honest I don’t know who is a freemason other than what somebody dug out of some register,’ he said, laughing somewhat defensively.
‘It’s so irrelevant to the governance of the City of London as to be ridiculous. But I know people find it interesting. As far as I know it’s a very good forum for charitable work, for some association with other people – and that’s all it is.’
Guard at the City Gates, Michael Snyder talks to Nick Mathiason, The Guardian, 7 August 2005.
Synder’s claims about freemasonary above are unconvincing. Given that on his declaration of interests he states he is a member of the Guildhall Lodge, it seems unlikely he doesn’t know the score on this matter. Since 1905 – when the Guildhall Lodge was founded – 78 of the 113 Lord Mayors of London have belonged to this one Lodge. That more than two thirds of Lord Mayors of London since 1905 should belong to single men only masonic lodge is difficult to attribute to blind chance given that only 0.36% of the English population are freemasons; and the percentage belonging to any individual lodge is considerably lower.
‘Sir’ Michael Snyder and fellow freemason and City of London councillor Chris Hayward (centre right).
Since only two women have ever held the top City post of Lord Mayor, Snyder’s claims about freemasonry being ‘irrelevant’ to its governance are absurd and might be interpreted as misogynistic since its grip on the City certainly contributes to a glass ceiling. One of the City’s two women Lord Mayors was elected after Snyder made the above statement, and the statistics we’ve previously posted on this matter look even worse when revised to reflect the 100 year period his claims take in. Likewise, pictures of Snyder indulging in masonic cosplay with other City of London councillors circulate on and off-line.
Top centre photo: ‘Sir’ Michael Snyder (right) and fellow City of London councillor and high ranking freemason ‘Sir’ David Wootton (684th Lord Mayor of London, 2011 to 2012).
It says a lot about the City of London’s lobbying power that whoppers as big as Snyder’s statement about freemasonry and the City are allowed to pass virtually unchallenged in the national press. Snyder is a high-ranking freemason who has served as Metropolitan Grand Master of London since December 2015; even ten years prior to his taking on this role he ought to have known better than making the claims he did if he wished to appear honest.
Above ‘Sir’ Michael Snyder on the cover of freemasonic magazine Arena. The header shows ‘Sir’ Michael Snyder (right) with his fellow freemason and City of London Cordwainer ward councillor ‘Sir’ Roger Gifford (685th Lord Mayor of London, 2012–13).
*Speculative freemasonry has a history of a little more than 300 years in the City of London. What is being said doesn’t appear to be invoking operative masonry (i.e stonemasonry) which has a history of considerably more than 700 years in the area currently occupied by City of London. We assume the Observer journalist made a mistake and his editors missed it.
Guard at the City Gates, Michael Snyder talks to Nick Mathiason: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2005/aug/07/theobserver.observerbusiness5
Why the City of London Corporation supported Crossrail by Simon Cox: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-15764281