The selection for the Conservative party’s London Mayor candidate is now underway. Some of the candidates maybe interested in dealing with a reorganising of the administration to keep it in line with local community issues. I have worked with my MP on some local issues for Romford and we agree on a number of issues about London. One of them being the reorganisation of the Greater London Assembly. I think it’s time that the GLA and the Greater London county is changed so that the boroughs have more power and control over their own destiny and identity.
My life living in London is like a tale of two cities. I grew up in Tower Hamlets living in different council houses. I am London born and bred but now I live in Hornchurch. Like many other Londoners of the 1980s and 1990s we became homeowners and relocated out into the suburbs for a better quality of life. I thought that now that I had grown up as a Londoner I would mature into an Essex man right here in Hornchurch. However although Hornchurch was an Essex town I later found that it was within the Greater London Borough of Havering. The same goes for Romford and Upminster.
Later I found out that the reason for this identity crisis was in the formation of the Greater London county. Although Hornchurch and Havering were geographically Essex, they were geopolitically London. In 1957 Sir Edwin Herbert made a report by Royal Commission on the Local Government in Greater London. At the time Britain was in the process of post war reparations with plans for a massive house building programme to demolish the slums and bomb damaged buildings from the Blitz. Many Londoners had left London behind and had migrated to the outer suburbs within the surrounding counties.
The Herbert Commission suggested a complete overhaul of London’s administration. This was implemented in the Greater London Act 1963. They realised that the number of people living outside the city in the neighbouring boroughs were still working in London. With the transport links to London in place the Commission decided that these boroughs should be controlled and taken over by the establishment of the Greater London Council. The GLC ceased to exist in 1986 and was later replaced in 1999 by the Greater London Assembly.
The creation of this new London led to the control of these boroughs being taken from Essex, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. These local governments used to associate themselves more closely with their respective counties. Dagenham for example was once quintessentially Essex in the 1960s and had that identity proudly displayed in it’s culture and way of life, especially for the Ford Dagenham car factory. But over the years it gradually declined in productivity and quality of life.
In the 2018 council elections the Conservatives used a campaign called ‘Keep Havering Special‘ to stop it from becoming like an inner London suburb. There was an outcry from some Labour politicians who branded it racist but the problem isn’t a race issue, it’s a geopolitical problem with a symptom of social cleansing. Here in Havering and some of the other outer London boroughs like Richmond and Enfield there are fears that the increasing size of Greater London from it’s formation will ruin their livelihoods and the town’s identity.
Over the last 60 years Greater London has undergone a gradual shift in population and control over the wealth of the country. The economy of the capital has shifted to the south with the bulk of the country’s wealth and power now owned and controlled by London, which has short changed the rest of the country. This has made a lot of people think that London operates like a separate state that reflects the metropolitan elite’s dominance over the wealth distribution of the country. Some non-Londoners think that the Mayor of London represents the British economy so much as well as the capital that they should have a vote on the Mayor as well.
Property prices are a divisive factor as well. They have boomed to the point where it’s so expensive to live in London that many working class communities have moved to the outer boroughs or elsewhere. There just aren’t enough affordable homes at all. The population has grown so big that the transport links are overcrowded. Every time I travel on the Underground Central Line it’s like being in a sardine tin on wheels.
One of the biggest problems with Greater London is that it is a city that has grown too big for it’s boundaries. At the rate it is going the city is on the verge of swallowing up the surrounding counties to the point where they have lost control of their own territory. They have also become a dumping ground for social cleansing and over population, whereby the housing of inner London has become so problematic that places like Havering are having to house overspill from Central London and neighbouring boroughs.
The day after Grenfell Tower caught fire, Peaky Saku a resident of Kensington and Chelsea spoke out about his neighbourhood. Claiming that it was becoming socially cleansed of working class people because of the way the council gives priority to the rich wealthy residents. Considering the way the classes of the capital have migrated across the city it looks way. A majority of residents in Havering are ex-East Londoners, myself included. But with the way the GLA has control over Havering this area may as well be East London.
What needs to be done is another overhaul of the way the GLA operates. It operates with a structure similar to a US city rather than a county council. That model isn’t right. I think the outer boroughs that border ought to have semi-representation in City Hall so that they can associate themselves with the other counties. What I have in mind is to turn the outer boroughs into semi-detached unitary districts that govern their own affairs and operate as a separate tier within the GLA. This will allow them to make decisions that the locals want.
If the city centre boroughs want something for them to do then they will have to consult the outer boroughs first. End result London will no longer have to outgrow it’s boundaries anymore and economic benefits can be channelled to the counties so they get a better deal. Hence the economy wont have to be so centralised in London.
A new structure like this will bring Romford back to Essex, Bromley back to Kent and Richmond back to Surrey. It will also bring back the county of Middlesex which was destroyed and amalgamated in 1965. We can’t keep land grabbing territory and let London have everything to itself. It will destroy the communities and the counties involved.
In 1968 the North London poet Sir John Betjemen wrote about the death of his beloved county Middlesex. It’s relevance to London today is very strong and bold in celebrating localised community and identity. It goes:
“Dear Middlesex, dear vanished country friend, Your neighbour London, killed you in the end.”