Monday, September 12, 2011

Democracy and the City of London

                  A private Act of Parliament in 2002 reformed the voting system for electing Members to the Corporation of London and received the Royal Assent on 7 November 2002. Under the new system, the number of non-resident voters has doubled from 16,000 to 32,000. Previously disenfranchised firms (and other organisations) are now entitled to nominate voters, in addition to those already represented and all such bodies are now required to choose their voters in a representative fashion.

Bodies employing fewer than ten people may appoint one voter, those employing ten to fifty people may appoint one voter for every five employees; those employing more than fifty people may appoint ten voters and one additional voter for each fifty employees beyond the first fifty.  This pyramid form of democracy is a distortion of democracy.

The Act also removed some anomalies, which had developed over time within the City's system, which had been unchanged since the 1850s.

                Under the changes brought in, the big City and foreign banks will be able to dominate the electoral process by being able to appoint up to 70 voters each to represent their company.    There is no requirement by companies for direct elections in the workplace to choose the new voters that will represent them.

                Aldermen and members of the City’s common council are often elected unopposed in many wards because partnerships, mainly of older law and accountancy firms, can dominate the electorate.  

                The present system is widely seen as undemocratic, but adopting a more conventional system would place the 9,200 actual residents of the City of London in control of the local planning and other functions of a major financial capital which provides most of its services to hundreds of thousands of non-residents.   As they are the residents they should form the electorate.   Some would argue that this issue illustrates the complexities and problems of democracy, but the principle of each vote having equal value should not be compromised.   Wealth should not be allowed to buy votes.   That is why the business vote was abolished elsewhere and is why the business vote should be abolished in the City of London.

Proposals to annex the City of London to one of the neighbouring boroughs, possibly the City of Westminster, have not widely been taken seriously.  However, one proposal floated as a possible further reform is to allow those who work in the City to each have a direct individual vote, rather than businesses being represented by appointed voters.   This latter would be an improvement but it is unsatisfactory and does not meet the principle objection, which is that the residents of the City cannot control their own affairs.

The City has gone backwards in time by resurrecting wealth and influence into the democratic process, but in doing so it has made itself totally undemocratic.   Because there were so few residents in the City of London they could possibly have a big influence on what is done in the City.   It demonstrates that even in the present day the power of wealth and money talks.   The system should be abolished and genuine democracy introduced.   If the objection is that the electorate is too small then the City should be amalgamated with a neighbouring borough or split up.

For all electoral purposes the City of London should be amalgamated with the City of Westminster. 

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