Green Party MEP for London Jean Lambert is calling for the “medieval” City of London Corporation to be abolished.
In 2008, the City of London Corporation was the “founding member” of City UK an organisation which promotes the financial services industry based in the square mile and, according to its website, works to “demonstrate the sector’s contribution to society and sustainable economic development”. The Corporation funded City UK to the tune of £780,000 in 2012. Lambert says the fact that the Freedom of Information Act applies to the Corporation but it does not apply to City UK is “anti-democratic”.
She also criticises the century’s old post of City Remembrancer the holder of which has a seat in the House of Commons next to the speaker and has special privileges in viewing legislation as it is drafted. Established in 1571, the City of London Corporation website says part of the role of the Remembrancer is “looking after the organisation’s interest in regard to all public legislation”.
The City of London is the only local authority in the country to let companies vote in local elections, in proportion to their number of employees, alongside residents. Firms get one vote for every five workers up to 50 and an additional vote for every 50 after that. About 7,300 people live in the City with 350,000 commuting in each day.
Lambert says: “The City of London is a mediaeval institution and it helps protect many of the banks and finance houses that have driven the latest worldwide economic meltdown. Abolishing this anti-democratic symbol of all that has gone wrong with banking in the UK is a useful place to start.
“We need to ensure the banks are motivated by what is good for society and the environment not just their bottom line. This means radical reform of the sector, starting with the Government reviewing all of the legal permissions by which banks lend money in the first place, as well as encouraging diversity in the sector with local banks, credit unions and complementary currencies all playing a significant role.”
City UK was set up after two Government reports found the promotion of financial services needed to be better coordinated and called for a single body to be set up. According to City UK’s annual report, the City of London Corporation provided £780,000 to the organisation in 2012, up from £710,000 in 2011 and roughly a quarter of City UK’s budget for 2012 of £3.6m. The majority of the remainder comes from membership fees, though no data on how much is paid by each firm is available.
A City of London Corporations spokesman says: “The UK financial and professional services industries are worth promoting internationally because they underpin jobs and growth across the UK. The City Corporation is not however a wilfully blind cheerleader: we have, for example, been strongly critical of parts of the banking industry over Libor manipulation.”
He refused to comment on Lambert’s proposal to abolish the Corporation.