Complaints that London is too big are a regular feature of contemporary hostility to the capital city. But should London be even bigger? That is to say, should the territory defined as Greater London since 1965 be enlarged and brought under the control of the Greater London Authority and its Mayor?
On the evening of 24th April, On London and The London Society will together host an event to explore that very question with four excellent panellists:
- Andrew Boff, Conservative AM, potential candidate for London Mayor next year and a long-standing advocate of making Greater London greater in size.
- Jack Brown, lecturer in London Studies at King’s College, a member of its Strand Group and author of the acclaimed The London Problem.
- Russell Curtis, architect and advocate of building more homes and author of the celebrated Golf Belt exposé.
- Liz Peace, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation until 2014 and now chair of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation among many other things.
The event will be chaired by me, On London publisher and editor Dave Hill.
Expanding the size of Greater London and the reach of the GLA is not on the agenda of any of the national political parties, and if it were there would be loud objections from everyone, from the county councils of the Home Counties, whose jurisdictions would be absorbed into that of the Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London, to assorted populist politicians elsewhere in the country who profit electorally from deriding a capital city whose economy keeps theirs afloat.
But what if such a reform was enacted? What if future Mayors of London had powers and influence beyond Hillingdon, Havering, Enfield and Croydon and encompassed Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and Surrey as well?
And why not? London’s travel-to-work area – think of it as its “commuter belt” – is far larger than Greater London and its inhabitants swell London’s daytime population by at least a million every working day.
The lives and livelihoods of that extra million are closely entwined with London’s and are just as reliant on the transport networks that serve it. So are the lives of their families and those of their neighbours who work in the towns and smaller cities of the Home Counties, many of whom have moved from London bringing with them skills and experience acquired there.
A Greater Greater London could create greater potential for solving some of London’s most stubborn and damaging problems, including by bringing its decidedly patchy suburban rail services more fully under Transport for London’s control and allowing the Mayor to facilitate more rapid and affordable housebuilding.
It could also help voters of the Home Counties by giving them an electoral say in decisions currently made in and for the capital which can and often do affect them greatly. The outcome could be a better run and coordinated London economic area – a Southern Powerhouse as Andrew Boff has called it – which might also have less housing and other poverty.
Such a reform would be bold but also logically align the strategic governance of London and the “wider south east” with the region’s well-established social and economic realities. Please join us on 24th April. Get your tickets HERE.