Unlike any other local government in the United Kingdom, the Greater London Authority shares more in common with American city governments. It has a legislature and a mayor elected to four-year terms, it is a central authority for practically all of London (except for the City of London), and its policies impact the lives of 9 million people. We covered ten interesting facts about the GLA about six years ago covering much of the information you just read, but that is not the end of the info we have to share.
Twice a Mayor
The Greater London Authority has had only three mayors since it came into existence in 2000. The first elected Mayor was Ken Livingstone, who had actually served in a similar position already. Livingstone had been the Leader of the Greater London Council (the GLA’s predecessor) from 1981 to 1986. His time in office only came to an end when Margaret Thatcher’s government dissolved the GLC. A Labour politician, Livingstone did not receive his party’s nomination for the position prior to the election and won as an independent candidate.
A Stepping Stone
And speaking of Mayors, current Prime Minister Boris Johnson served as Greater London Mayor from 2008 to 2016 before returning the Parliament as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. One of Johnson’s lasting legacies is the bicycle hire scheme throughout the city, a policy initiated by Livingstone but brought to fruition while Johnson was Mayor. This, combined with Johnson’s own love of cycling got the cycles nicknamed “Boris Bikes.”
And the Reigning Champ
When Boris Johnson left office in 2016, the incoming mayor was Labour politician Sadiq Khan. Khan served as an MP for Tooting prior to running for Mayor in 2016. He has served in the position ever since and is the first Muslim politician to serve as Mayor of London. However, he’s not the first Muslim mayor in all of Greater London, as Lutfur Rahman served as Mayor of the Borough of Tower Hamlets from 2010 to 2015.
The Greater London Authority’s home since 2000 was appropriately dubbed “City Hall” and is located at The Queen’s Walk, London SE1. It had several nicknames, including “The Snail,” “The Onion,” and “The Armadillo.” Interestingly, the GLA did not own the building but leased it. This prompted the body to construct its own building, known as “The Crystal” in Newham, which opened for the GLA’s business in January 2022 in the midst of the COVID pandemic. Prior to becoming home for the GLA, The Crystal was an exhibition center that had been constructed in 2012.
Practicing What They Preach
The Greater London Authority has long been an advocate for green, energy-conscious buildings, and the new City Hall is a showcase for several energy-conscious technologies, from traditional solar panels to the building’s shape. The Crystal may not look like it, but it is technically a geometrically modified sphere, keeping the roof only minimally exposed to sunlight which prevents the buildup of heat and reduces the energy required to cool it.
From 1999 until the United Kingdom left the EU in 2021, the GLA was actually its own constituency in the European Parliament. At any one time, it had from seven to nine MEPs (Members of the European Parliament).
The GLA is divided into seventy-three Parliamentary constituencies but only elects twenty-five members to the London Assembly.
The Big City
Greater London has a total area of 1,572 square kilometers, and the population density is roughly 5,197 Londoners per square kilometer, which is a lot of people for each London Assembly member to represent.
Moving People Around
The GLA is actually responsible for the management of several London agencies, including Transportation for London. TfL handles every aspect of public transportation, including the buses, London Underground, Overground, Docklands Light Rail, Santander Cycles bicycle hire, the Emirates Air Line cable cars, and the Congestion Charge.
Planning for the Future
The Greater London Mayor is responsible for producing The London Plan, which is the strategic land use plan for Greater London. The London Plan was first published in 2004 and has been updated in 2008, 2011, 2016, and 2021. The London Boroughs’ Councils are legally bound to follow the plan, and the Mayor can actually override their planning decisions.