The Labour party said the City of London Corporation was now in “desperate need of reform” after figures obtained by the Observer detailed spending on a luxurious dining club and bar, grace-and-favour accommodation and multimillion-pound support for elite schools.
Members are also increasingly concerned about the lack of diversity in a body that is supposed to represent the interests of the City’s multiracial workforce. Munsur Ali, a film-maker and a councillor for one of the most deprived and multi-ethnic wards in the City, said: “It’s no secret that the we need more people from BAME [black, Asian, and minority ethnic] groups as well as working class backgrounds to join the corporation. But unlike other councils the City does not offer remuneration, which isn’t a problem if you’re on a high salary or pension but very challenging if you are in a low-paid job.”
The force is implementing what the corporation describes as a “challenging savings plan”, while previous cuts have resulted in a 14% decrease in the number of police officers in the City and £16m being slashed from the budget.
Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities and local government secretary, said: “This lavish spending does little to challenge claims that the City corporation is little more than an ‘old boys’ club’, instead of being an authority committed to providing services to residents and workers. The City resisted the changes that established democratic local government in the rest of the country, and now it is in desperate need for reform.”
On the funding for the elite schools – the City of London school, City of London school for girls and the City of London freemen’s school – Anderson said: “I am simply unable to justify to my electors that we run, sponsor and subsidise these three private schools to the tune of several million pounds every year. This money belongs to all Londoners, and there are much better ways it could be spent.”
“We are working closely with Labour local authorities in London to build 3,700 new homes and give pupils in some of the capital’s poorest areas world-class state education in top-performing academy schools. We are confident whichever party forms the government after the next election will continue to work with us to build a thriving and diverse capital.”