The City of London is divided into 25 wards. These vary in size and complexion – some are tiny – but they largely follow the Saxon maps.
Each ward has between 2 and 10 councillors, referred to as Common Councilmen or Commoners, according to the size of the electorate. Each ward also has an Alderman (who may be a woman yet rarely is).
There are 100 Commoners elected by the wards. The general elections for the Councillors take place together every four years. Elections for Aldermen take place only when there is a vacancy.
The Lord Mayor, who is “elected” annually by the Livery companies at Common Hall, is drawn from the pool of twenty-five Aldermen.
The electorate of the City is made up of residents and workers.
The Resident Voter
Like any local authority, if you are eighteen and can show that you are a resident of the City, you can register to vote in the City election. As elsewhere, EU citizens are entitled to vote in these elections.
Although there are people living in all parts of the City, there are only a few areas where residents predominate. As a consequence four wards are identified as “residential”. Boundary changes in the last ten years were introduced to ensure that, in these wards, the residential voice can be heard.
Two of these residential wards cover the Barbican (Aldersgate and Cripplegate), one of these is located on the Eastern edge of the City (Portsoken) and the fourth is by the river (Queenhithe). In total there are 6500 residents the City, of which 5000 live in these four wards.
As a City Worker, there are two ways to qualify to vote in one of the elections.
First, the rate-paying voters. In essence, this covers all the small businesses and sole traders who have a responsibility for paying business rates to the City Council. Shop owners fall into this category just as barristers do. Those companies that are organized into “partnerships” – generally firms of solicitors and accountants – generate a vote for each resident partner. In some wards these almost constitute a block vote.
Second, the Unincorporated Voters. In 2002, through means of a private Act of Parliament, the City extended the vote to unincorporated bodies in the City of London. These include banks and other financial service and professional bodies that are constituted as limited liability partnerships as well as charities, faith groups and the livery companies.
These bodies are able to “appoint” voters according to the size of their workforce. This is the formula: one voter for every five workers up to fifty workers, and then one further voter for every subsequent fifty. So, for example, a workforce of 30 is entitled to 6 voters, a workforce of 100 to 11 voters and a workforce of 300 to 14 voters.
Who is appointed as voter for a company and how? The legislation requires that the “voting appointments should reflect, as far as practically possible, the composition of the workforce” and Parliament further requires that the process by which these appointments are made should be “open and clear”. Each firm is required to have a designated individual who is responsible for making the appointments.