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What you need to know about London

The City of London is a city and county that contains the historic centre and the primary central business district (CBD) of London. It constituted most of London from its settlement by the Romans in the 1st century AD to the Middle Ages, but the agglomeration has since grown far beyond the City’s borders. The City is now only a tiny part of the metropolis of London, though it remains a notable part of central London. Administratively, it forms one of the 33 local authority districts of Greater London; however, the City of London is not a London borough, a status reserved for the other 32 districts (including London’s only other city, the City of Westminster). It is also a separate county of England, being an enclave surrounded by Greater London. It is the smallest county in the United Kingdom. The City of London is widely referred to simply as the City (differentiated from the phrase “the city of London” by capitalising City) and is also colloquially known as the Square Mile, as it is 1.12 sq mi (716.80 acres; 2.90 km2) in area. Both of these terms are also often used as metonyms for the United Kingdom’s trading and financial services industries, which continue a notable history of being largely based in the City.  The name London is now ordinarily used for a far wider area than just the City. London most often denotes the sprawling London metropolis, or the 32 London boroughs, in addition to the City of London itself. This wider usage of London is documented as far back as 1888, when the County of London was created. The local authority for the City, namely the City of London Corporation, is unique in the UK and has some unusual responsibilities for a local council, such as being the police authority. It is also unusual in having responsibilities and ownerships beyond its boundaries. The Corporation is headed by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, an office separate from (and much older than) the Mayor of London. The Lord Mayor, as of November 2018, is Peter Estlin. The City is a major business and financial centre. Throughout the 19th century, the City was the world’s primary business centre, and it continues to be a major meeting point for businesses. London came top in the Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index, published in 2008. The insurance industry is focused around the eastern side of the City, around Lloyd’s building. A secondary financial district exists outside the City, at Canary Wharf, 2.5 miles (4 km) to the east. The City has a resident population of 9,401 (ONS estimate, mid-2016) but over 300,000 people commute to and work there. About three quarters of the jobs in the City of London are in the financial, professional, and associated business services sectors. The legal profession forms a major component of the northern and western sides of the City, especially in the Temple and Chancery Laneareas where the Inns of Court are located, of which two—Inner Temple and Middle Temple—fall within the City of London boundary.

 

Currency

Climate

The nearest weather station has historically been the London Weather Centre at Kingsway/ Holborn, although observations ceased in 2010. Now St. James Park provides the nearest official readings. The City has an oceanic climate (Köppen “Cfb”) modified by the Urban Heat Island in the centre of London. This generally causes higher night-time minima than outlying areas. For example, the August mean minimum of 14.7 °C (58.5 °F) compares to a figure of 13.3 °C (55.9 °F) for Greenwich and Heathrow whereas is 11.6 °C (52.9 °F) at Wisley in the middle of several square miles of Metropolitan Green Belt. All figures refer to the observation period 1971–2000. Accordingly, the weather station holds the record for the UK’s warmest overnight minimum temperature, 24.0 °C (75.2 °F), recorded on 4 August 1990. The maximum is 37.6 °C (99.7 °F), set on 10 August 2003. The absolute minimum for the weather station is a mere −8.2 °C (17.2 °F), compared to readings around −15.0 °C (5.0 °F) towards the edges of London. Unusually, this temperature was during a windy and snowy cold spell (mid-January 1987), rather than a cold clear night—cold air drainage is arrested due to the vast urban area surrounding the city.

Economy

Criticism

Author and journalist Nicholas Shaxson argued that, in return for the financial institutions based in the City raising loans and finance for the British government, the City “has extracted privileges and freedoms from rules and laws to which the rest of Britain must submit”. He further claims that the assistance provided to the institutions based within it, many of which help their rich clients with offshore tax arrangements, mean that the City is “a tax haven in its own right”. The documentary The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire asserts the tax haven status that the City provides.

Elections

The City has a unique electoral system. Most of its voters are representatives of businesses and other bodies that occupy premises in the City. Its ancient wards have very unequal numbers of voters. In elections, both the businesses based in the City and the residents of the City vote. The City of London Corporation was not reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, because it had a more extensive electoral franchise than any other borough or city; in fact, it widened this further with its own equivalent legislation allowing one to become a freeman without being a liveryman. In 1801, the City had a population of about 130,000, but increasing development of the City as a central business district led to this falling to below 5,000 after the Second World War.  It has risen slightly to around 9,000 since, largely due to the development of the Barbican Estate. In 2009, the business vote was about 24,000, greatly exceeding residential voters. As the City of London Corporation has not been affected by other municipal legislation over the period of time since then, its electoral practice has become increasingly anomalous. Uniquely for city or borough elections, its elections remain independent-dominated.

 

Public services

A City of London Police vehicle on Blackfriars Bridge. The City is a police area and has its own police force, the City of London Police, separate from the Metropolitan Police Service covering the remainder of Greater London. The City Police have three police stations, at Snow Hill, Wood Street and Bishopsgate, and an administrative headquarters at Guildhall Yard East. The force comprises 813 police officers, 85 Special Constables and 48 PCSOs. It is the smallest territorial police force in England and Wales, in both geographic area and the number of police officers.

 

Landmarks

Fire, bombing and post-World War II redevelopment has meant that the City, despite its history, has relatively few intact notable historic structures. They include the Monument to the Great Fire of London (“the Monument”), St Paul’s Cathedral, the Guildhall, the Royal Exchange, Dr. Johnson’s House, Mansion House and a great many churches, many designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed St Paul’s. 2 King’s Bench Walk and Prince Henry’s Room are notable historic survivors of heavy bombing of the Temple area, which has largely been rebuilt to its historic form. Another example of a bomb-damaged place having been restored is Staple Inn on Holborn. A few small sections of the Roman London Wallexist, for example near the Tower of London and in the Barbican area. Among the twentieth-century listed buildings are Bracken House, the first post World War II buildings in the country to be given statutory protection, and the whole of the Barbican and Golden Lane Estate. The Tower of London is not in the City, but is a notable visitor attraction which brings tourists to the southeast of the City. Other landmark buildings with historical significance include the Bank of England, the Old Bailey, the Custom House, Smithfield Market, Leadenhall Market and St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Noteworthy contemporary buildings include a number of modern high-rise buildings (see section below) as well as the Lloyd’s building.