Graeme Harrower & City of London Residents Turn Their Fire On The Business Vote System

Disquiet over how the City of London council is able to operate because it is 80% elected on the business votes of non-residents and thus requires no democratic mandate from local people on anything it does, continues to rise. As Graeme Harrower notes, this is not an issue that is going to go away, and in our view not until there is democratic reform of this local authority. The range of voices speaking out against the business vote system does demonstrate that this is a burning issue with regard to democracy and not a party political matter.

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Mark Field & the City of London’s Culture of Misogyny & Entitlement

Mark Field has long been known as the Invisible Man because of his unwillingness to engage with his constituents. When his majority was slashed in the 2017 general election he suddenly became slightly more visible and even vaguely interested in the issues that those who were entitled to vote for or against him wished to raise with ‘their’ MP. That said, after Field brutally assaulted Greenpeace activist Janet Barker last week and a video of the incident went viral, several media outlets still carried headlines that included the question “Who Is Mark Field?” However, the media don’t not know this MP the way his constituents don’t know him, because his aloofness and inaccessibility has long been a talking point among us. Until last week it seems Field had been largely operating beneath the radar of the press throughout his stint as an MP. That is apart from a headline grabbing 2005/6 love affair with fellow Tory MP Liz Truss (before she was elected to Parliament) and which ended with the first wife of this self-declared upholder of traditional values and civility divorcing him. The discrepancy between Field’s words and actions are neither failings nor quirks, they are embedded in the City of London culture of greed and entitlement that the MP is more effectively wedded to than any of his spouses.

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‘Sir’ Michael Snyder, The City of London & Crossrail

The Crossrail deal struck between the Corporation of London when it saw headed by ‘Sir’ Michael Snyder and the 2007 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 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” “The City Offset was re-instated… 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 all of the money it is contributing to Crossrail. As the internal corporation document 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”. Given that Crossrail inflates the value of lands owned by the corporation adjacent to it and the extra funding could continue for more than 15 years, the City potentially stood to make a great deal of money from this deal.

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The City of London, House Building Targets & Business Votes

Following the Occupy London protests in 2012, the Corporation released information about “City’s Cash”—the “sovereign wealth fund” stemming from the 15th century. Over 52 percent of its reserve in that year came from investments, with 29 percent from school fees, 8 percent from rent, and 9 percent from grants, contributions and reimbursements. By 2016 its assets stood at £2.3 billion, generating £210 million yearly. The 2018-23 Corporate Plan cynically insists “everything we do contributes toward the achievement of twelve outcomes.” Those listed include: “People have equal opportunities to enrich their lives and reach their full potential” and to “Help provide homes that London and Londoner’s need.” The City of London actually devotes its main energies to furthering the inequality that produces untold misery and hardship.

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Castle Baynard Election: A Beautiful Farce

There were eight candidates in the Castle Baynard common councillor election held on 9 October 2018 in the City of London. A total of 277 votes were cast. The Labour Party candidate Natasha Lloyd-Owen won with 77 votes, with seven ‘independents’ splitting 200 votes between them. Lloyd-Owen’s victory came as a shock to the true blue City types who ludicrously claim our local authority is non-political despite the fact it aggressively promotes the neo-liberal agenda championed by the right-wing of the Conservative Party. Labour have previously won seats in residential wards but never before in a ward like Castle Baynard dominated by undemocratic business votes. So while City slickers and legal professionals getting votes where they work as well as where they live is obscene, and the minuscule size of the electorate is completely absurd, it was still a historic win.

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You should vote where you live, ‘that’s how democracy works!’

We’d really like Andrew Boff to apply the logic of his observation ‘(i)f people want to vote in the London elections they can move here, that’s how democracy works,’ to the City of London. As we’ve made clear most of those who vote in City of London elections don’t actually live within this local authority’s boundaries and get to vote elsewhere too. That simply isn’t democratic.

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Hugh Morris, The Livery Lodges & The City of London’s Opacity

City Matters reported that the livery company who booked a contentious Guildhall event for the far-Right Italian senator Armando Siri was the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants. Is this really ‘an outside body’ as The Guardian reported the City of London council claiming, or is it a cat’s paw? When it suits the City of London this and other livery companies are linked to it, which justifies the discounts they enjoy, effectively subsidies for events such as the far-Right lunch with Armando Siri. But when the City of London wants to shrug off responsibility these ‘linked’ and ‘connected’ organisations metamorphose into outside bodies – as is clear from the City’s statement quoted by The Guardian. We’d like Hugh Morris – and other City of London councillors – to state definitively if they want the City to treat the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants as an ‘outside body’ and to charge it the full market rate when it hires rooms from the council. If this and other livery companies are not City linked and connected, then they shouldn’t be getting discounts. We’re also keen to hear what Morris has to say about the Armando Siri event hosted by a livery company he belongs to.

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