A group of politicians, clergy and former members of the Occupy London movement have launched a bid to take control of the body which governs London's financial district.
The group will support a host of candidates standing for election to the City of London Corporation's (CoLC) main decision-making body the Common Council early next year on a ticket of radical reform of the secretive organisation.
Members of the City Reform Group, who include the Conservative MP David Davis and the former Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral Giles Fraser, want to see greater transparency in the CoLC. They have promised to publish all of its financial secrets, should their supporters gain an electoral foothold in March.
"The City of London Corporation certainly needs to be reclaimed by the people. It is a public authority and it should be more for the common good. There is a question about it masquerading as a public body but lobbying for private interest. It is very important that it publishes its accounts in full and, if it has nothing to hide, then brilliant," said Dr Fraser this week....
The City of London Corporation's Common Councillors are elected every four years and make up the organisation's main decision-making body. The Corporation has been criticised in the past for a lack of transparency since it sits astride the boundary between private body and local government authority for the Square Mile.
That status – along with other centuries-old rights it has won – mean that it has exemptions from certain laws, such as the Freedom of Information Act. It also runs its own police force, the City of London Police. The Corporation argues that it abides by all laws and publishes all accounts and decisions it is required to. It also holds meetings to decide budgets in public.
The Corporation holds endowments – monies given to it over hundreds of years by private benefactors – to be spent for the public benefit. It is only required to publish information on any use of that money related to its role as the local government for the City and has no obligation to provide any other information. It said it voluntarily publishes details of plans it spends the money but keeps any other information secret.
But Dr Fraser said: "Required by the law, I am sure that's right. My problem is that there is an enormous amount of money administered by the City of London Corporation which is not open to view and it seems to me a matter of democratic principle and basic morality that a public body should be much more open and transparent than that: 'I abide by the law'."
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