Greater London Council

The Greater London Council (GLC) was the top-tier local government administrative body for Greater London from 1965 to 1986. It replaced the earlier London County Council (LCC) which had covered a much smaller area. The GLC was dissolved in 1986 by the Local Government Act 1985 and its powers were devolved to the London boroughs and other entities. A new administrative body, known as the Greater London Authority (GLA), was established in 2000.

Greater London Council
Coat of arms or logo
Coat of arms
Established1 April 1965
Disbanded31 March 1986
Preceded byLondon County Council
Succeeded byInner London Education Authority
London Boroughs Grants Committee
London Fire and Civil Defence Authority
London Planning Advisory Committee
London Regional Transport
London Research Centre
and various others
Seats100 (1965–1973)
92 (1973–1986)
Last election
Meeting place
County Hall, Lambeth


The GLC was established by the London Government Act 1963, which sought to create a new body covering all of London rather than just the inner part of the conurbation, additionally including and empowering newly created London boroughs within the overall administrative structure.

In 1957 a Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London had been set up under Sir Edwin Herbert, and this reported in 1960, recommending the creation of 52 new London boroughs as the basis for local government. It further recommended that the LCC be replaced by a weaker strategic authority, with responsibility for public transport, road schemes, housing development and regeneration. The Greater London Group, a research centre of academics within the London School of Economics, also had a significant effort on the commission's report and the eventual creation of the GLC.[1][2]

Most of the Commission's recommendations were accepted, but the number of new boroughs was reduced to 32. Greater London covered the whole County of London and most of Middlesex, plus parts of Essex, Kent, and Surrey, a small part of Hertfordshire and the County Boroughs of Croydon (Surrey) and East and West Ham (both in Essex), all of which had been independent of county council control since 1889.

Some areas on the boundaries of the area recommended by the Herbert Commission, fearing increased local taxation, fought successfully not to come under the new Greater London Council, notably the urban districts of Chigwell in Essex; and Sunbury-on-Thames, Staines and Potters Bar in Middlesex. Other areas recommended for inclusion that were never part of Greater London included Epsom and Ewell, Caterham and Warlingham, Esher, and Weybridge.

GLC councillors elected for areas within the former County of London became ex officio members of the new Inner London Education Authority, which took over the LCC responsibility for education. By contrast in Outer London, which was the rest of Greater London, the various London boroughs each became a local education authority, akin to a county council or county borough in the rest of England.


The GLC was responsible for running strategic services such as the fire service, emergency planning, waste disposal and flood prevention. The GLC shared responsibility with the London boroughs for providing roads, housing, city planning and leisure services. It had a very limited role in direct service provision with most functions the responsibility of the London boroughs. The GLC did not take control of public transport from the London Transport Board until 1970 and lost control to London Regional Transport in 1984. Under the 1963 Act, the GLC was required to produce a Greater London Development Plan. The plan included in its wide-ranging remit: population changes, employment, housing, pollution, transport, roads, the central area, growth and development areas, urban open spaces and the urban landscape, public services and utilities and planning standards. The plan included the comprehensive redevelopment of Covent Garden and creating a central London motorway loop. The plan was subject to an Inquiry which lasted from July 1970 until May 1972.[3] The campaign to save Covent Garden along with various opposition on other matters largely derailed the plan.

Composition and political control

Council Chamber of the GLC, from the majority benches

Each of the six GLC elections was won by the leading national opposition party, with the party in government nationally coming second in the GLC elections.

The first GLC election was on 9 April 1964. Each of the new boroughs elected a number of representatives under the bloc vote system. Despite Conservative hopes, the first GLC consisted of 64 Labour and 36 Conservative councillors and Labour Group leader Bill Fiske became the first Leader of the Council.

At the next election in 1967 the unpopularity of the national Labour government produced a massive Conservative victory with 82 seats, to Labour's 18. Desmond Plummer became the first Conservative leader of London-wide government in 33 years. The Conservatives retained control in 1970 with a reduced majority.

In 1972 the electoral system was reformed to introduce single-member constituencies for the election after the 1973 contest, and extend the term of office to four years. Labour fought the 1973 election on a strongly socialist platform and won with 57 seats to 33 for the Conservatives. The Liberals won two seats.

The GLC's hopes under the Labour administration of Reg Goodwin were badly affected by the oil crisis of 1974. Massive inflation which when combined with the GLC's £1.6 billion debt led to heavy rate increases (200% in total before the next election in 1977) and unpopular budget cuts. Some months before the 1977 elections the Labour Group began to split. A left group, including Ken Livingstone, denounced the election manifesto of the party.

The Conservatives regained control in May 1977, winning 64 seats under their new Thatcherite leader Horace Cutler against a Labour total of just 28. Cutler headed a resolutely right-wing administration, cutting spending, selling council housing and deprioritising London Transport. In opposition the Labour party continued to fractionalise: Goodwin resigned suddenly in 1980 and in the following leadership contest the little-regarded left-winger Ken Livingstone was only just beaten in an intensely tactical campaign by the moderate Andrew McIntosh. However the Labour left were strong at constituency level and as the 1981 election approached they worked to ensure that their members were selected to stand and that their democratic socialist anti-austerity convictions shaped the manifesto. The eventual manifesto topped out at over 50,000 words.

The May 1981 election was presented as a clash of ideologies by the Conservatives – Thatcherism against a 'tax high, spend high' Marxist Labour group, claiming that Andrew McIntosh would be deposed by Ken Livingstone after the election. McIntosh and Labour Party leader Michael Foot insisted this was untrue, and Labour won a very narrow victory with a majority of six. At a pre-arranged meeting of the new Councillors the day after the election, the Left faction won a complete victory over the less-organised Labour right. McIntosh lost with 20 votes to 30 for Ken Livingstone. Livingstone, dubbed 'Red Ken' by some newspapers, managed to gain the guarded support of the Labour deputy leader Illtyd Harrington and the party Chief Whip and set about his new administration. Livingstone's deputy leader of the GLC from 1985–6 was John McDonnell, future Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer under Jeremy Corbyn. Livingstone's Technology Director was Mike Cooley who established The Greater London Enterprise Board (GLEB) [4].

Livingstone was able to push through the majority of his policies. The increased spending of the council led the national government to reduce and eventually end the GLC's central government grant.

Elections to the GLC

Overall control Conservative Labour Liberal
1981 Labour 41 50 1
1977 Conservative 64 28
1973 Labour 32 58 2
1970 Conservative 65 35
1967 Conservative 82 18
1964 Labour 36 64


Livingstone's high-spend socialist policies put the GLC into direct conflict with Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. Livingstone soon became a thorn in the side of the sitting Conservative government. He antagonised Thatcher through a series of actions (including posting a billboard of London's rising unemployment figures on the side of County Hall, directly opposite Parliament); a Fares Fair policy of reducing Tube and bus fares using government subsidies; meeting Sinn Féin MP Gerry Adams at a time when Adams was banned from entering Britain due to his links with the Provisional IRA; and endorsing a statue of Nelson Mandela.

By 1983, the government argued for the abolition of the GLC, claiming that it was inefficient and unnecessary, and that its functions could be carried out more efficiently by the boroughs. The arguments for this case which were detailed in the White Paper Streamlining the cities. Critics of this position argued that the GLC's abolition (as with that of the Metropolitan County Councils) was politically motivated, claiming that it had become a powerful vehicle for opposition to Margaret Thatcher's government. Ken Livingstone and 3 other Labour councillors resigned in protest, and won back their seats easily in the September 1984 by-elections because the Conservatives refused to stand.[5]

The Local Government Act 1985, which abolished the GLC, faced considerable opposition from many quarters but was narrowly passed in Parliament, setting the end of the council for 31 March 1986. It also cancelled the scheduled May 1985 elections. GLC assets were assigned to the London Residuary Body for disposal, including County Hall, which was sold to a Japanese entertainment company and now houses the London Aquarium and the London Dungeon, amongst other things.

The Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) continued in existence for a few years, and direct elections to it were held, but ILEA was finally also disbanded in 1990, with the Inner London Boroughs assuming control over education as the Outer boroughs had done on their creation in 1965.


Most of the powers of the GLC were devolved to the London boroughs. Some powers, such as the fire service, were taken over by joint boards made up of councillors appointed by the boroughs – see waste authorities in Greater London for an example. In total, around 100 organisations were responsible for service delivery in Greater London.[6]

Tony Blair's Labour government was elected in 1997, and was committed to bringing back London-wide government. In 1998 a referendum was held on the establishment of a new London authority and elected mayor, which was approved by a two to one margin.

The new Greater London Authority (GLA) was established in 2000. The GLA has a very different structure to the GLC, consisting of a directly elected Mayor of London and a London Assembly. The Mayor of London elections were won by the same Ken Livingstone, who began his victory speech with the words: "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted 14 years ago …".[7]

The archives of the Greater London Council are held at London Metropolitan Archives.

Leaders of the GLC

Number Image Leader Term Party
1 No image Bill Fiske
1964–1967 Labour
2 No image Desmond Plummer
1967–1973 Conservative
3 No image Sir Reginald Goodwin
1973–1977 Labour
4 No image Sir Horace Cutler
1977–1981 Conservative
5 Ken Livingstone - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008 (cropped) Ken Livingstone
(born 1945)
1981–1986 Labour

See also


  1. ^ Kochan, Ben, ed. (2008). "Introduction". London government 50 years of debate: The contribution of LSE's Greater London Group (PDF). London School of Economics. p. 4.
  2. ^ "NCC Control Needed". The Ottawa Citizen. 10 May 1965. p. 4 – via
  3. ^ Greater London Development Plan: Report of the panel of inquiry. HMSO. 1973. ISBN 0117506168.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Rallings, Colin; Thrasher, Michael (1997). Local Elections in Britain. London: Routledge. p. 172. ISBN 9780203412756.
  6. ^ Atkinson, H. & Wilks-Heeg, S., Local Government from Thatcher to Blair: The Politics of Creative Autonomy, 2000
  7. ^ Waugh, Paul; Grice, Andrew (5 May 2000). "Ken reclaims the capital". The Independent.
1961 London County Council election

An election to the County Council of London took place on 13 April 1961. It proved to be the last election to the council, and plans for its replacement by the Greater London Council were already in process. The council was elected by First Past the Post with each elector having three votes in the three-member seats.

1964 Greater London Council election

The first election to the Greater London Council (GLC) was held on 9 April 1964.

1964 London local elections

Local government elections were held in the thirty-two London boroughs on Thursday 7 May 1964. Polling stations were open between 8am and 9pm.

This was the first election for the London boroughs, which had been created by the London Government Act 1963. All seats were up for election. The result was a landslide for the Labour Party, who won twenty of the boroughs. The Conservatives won nine, and three were under no overall control. Only sixteen Liberal councillors were elected in London, along with forty-nine residents and ratepayers candidates, three independents and three Communists.

The result followed the convincing Labour gain of the new Greater London Council in the first GLC elections held on 9 April.

Until 1978, each council had aldermen, in the ratio of one aldermen to six councillors. Following the elections, each council elected all of its aldermen, half of which served until 1968 and half until 1971. This did not affect political control in any borough.

1967 Greater London Council election

The second election to the Greater London Council was held on 13 April 1967, and saw the first Conservative victory for a London-wide authority since 1931.

1970 Greater London Council election

The third election to the Greater London Council was held on 9 April 1970 and saw a Conservative victory with a reduced majority.

1970 United Kingdom local elections

Local elections were held in the United Kingdom in 1970. In April, elections were held to the Greater London Council and 13 county councils. In May there were elections to 83 county boroughs, 259 municipal boroughs and 521 urban district councils. There were also elections to Scottish burghs.

The results showed a substantial recovery for the Labour Party, which had been in government since 1964 and had suffered heavy losses in council elections during the intervening years. The Liberals turned in their worst performance since Clement Davies was party leader. The Scottish National Party's vote was halved as a result of the pro-Labour swing in Scotland.

Prime Minister Harold Wilson subsequently called a general election in June of that year, which the Labour Party lost contrary to the expectations of most opinion polls.

1973 Greater London Council election

The fourth election to the Greater London Council was held on 12 April 1973. Labour won a large majority of 58 seats to 32 for the Conservatives; the Liberals also won their first two seats on the council.

1977 Greater London Council election

Elections to the Greater London Council were held on 5 May 1977.

1981 Greater London Council election

There was an election to the Greater London Council held on 7 May 1981. Councillors were elected to serve until elections in May 1985. Those elections were cancelled and the term was extended until 1 April 1986.The leader of the Labour GLC group Andrew McIntosh led the party into the election. Within 24 hours of the result, however, McIntosh's leadership was toppled by Ken Livingstone; a member of the party's left-wing. Livingstone was then elected GLC leader.This was the last election to the GLC. The Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher soon took the decision to abolish the council in the mid-1980s, out of concern that it would defy conservative policies. For more information on this see the article, Greater London Council. Following the abolition of the GLC, there was a direct election to the Inner London Education Authority in 1986.

Baron Gainford

Baron Gainford, of Headlam in the County of Durham, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1917 for the Liberal politician Jack Pease, a member of the Darlington Pease family. He notably served as President of the Board of Education from 1911 to 1915. Pease was the second son of Sir Joseph W. Pease, 1st Baronet, and the grandson of Joseph Pease, while Arthur Pease was his uncle and Sir Arthur Francis Pease, 1st Baronet, Beaumont Pease, 1st Baron Wardington, and Herbert Pike Pease, 1st Baron Daryngton, were his first cousins. The third baron was a former member of the London County Council and of the Greater London Council. As of 2013 the title is held by his younger brother, the fourth baron, an architect and town planner; County Planning Officer for Ross and Cromarty 1967-1975 and Scottish Office Inquiry Reporter 1978-1993. As a descendant of Sir Joseph W. Pease, 1st Baronet, he is also in remainder to this title.

County Hall, London

County Hall (sometimes called London County Hall) is a building in London that was the headquarters of London County Council (LCC) and later the Greater London Council (GLC). The building is on the South Bank of the River Thames, with Westminster Bridge being next to it, heading south. It faces west toward the City of Westminster and is close to the Palace of Westminster. The nearest London Underground stations are Waterloo and Westminster.

Today, County Hall is the site of businesses and attractions, including the London Sea Life Aquarium, London Dungeon and a Namco Station amusement arcade. The London Eye is next to County Hall, and its visitor centre is inside the building. There is also a suite of exhibition rooms which was home to the Saatchi Gallery from 2003 to 2006. Other parts of the building house two hotels (a budget Premier Inn & a 5 star Marriott Hotel), several restaurants, the UK headquarters of the company Cloudflare, and some flats. Various spaces are available for hire for functions, including the council chamber at the heart of the building. Until January 2010 the Dali Universe was also in the building but this has now closed and will be reopening in another venue soon.

Confirmed in early 2014, the building will become the home of the new Merlin Entertainments attraction and was opening in July 2015. The area is already home to three other Merlin Entertainments attractions. In 2016 London event venue company etc.venues announced plans to open a conference and event space in County Hall. Based on the 4th floor overlooking the Thames, which opened in January 2017.

Gay Rights Working Party

Gay Rights Working Party was a working party (committee) of the Greater London Council (GLC), between 1981 and 1986 (when the GLC was abolished).

The working party was formed in 1976 to investigate gay issues in London. Its work culminated in the publication of Changing the world: a London charter for gay and lesbian rights. The party was particularly concerned with employment rights and police attitudes, and liaised with gay groups throughout the capital.

One of the important point of its activity was the forming of the Gay London Police Monitoring Group in 1982.

Havering Country Park

Havering Country Park is a varied environment open space in the London Borough of Havering. It includes 100 acres (0.40 km2) of woodland.

It is one of three large parklands in Havering-atte-Bower, the others are Bedfords Park and Pyrgo Park.

The area of the park was formerly part of the estate of Havering Palace.

The land was purchased by the Greater London Council and opened to the public in 1975, with ownership transferring to Havering Council in 1986.

Inner London Education Authority

The Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) was an ad hoc local education authority for the City of London and the 12 Inner London boroughs from 1965 until its abolition in 1990. The authority was reconstituted as a directly elected body corporate on 1 April 1986.

London Regional Transport

London Regional Transport (LRT) was the organisation responsible for the public transport network in Greater London, England between 1984 and 2000. In common with all London transport authorities from 1933 to 2000, the public name and operational brand of the organisation was London Transport.

London boroughs

The London boroughs are the 32 local authority districts that make up the Greater London county; each is governed by a London borough council. The London boroughs were all created at the same time as Greater London on 1 April 1965 by the London Government Act 1963 and are a type of local government district. Twelve were designated as Inner London boroughs and twenty as Outer London boroughs.

The London boroughs have populations of around 150,000 to 300,000. Inner London boroughs tend to be smaller, in both population and area, and more densely populated than Outer London boroughs. The London boroughs were created by combining groups of former local government units. A review undertaken between 1987 and 1992 led to a number of relatively small alterations in borough boundaries.

London borough councils provide the majority of local government services (schools, waste management, social services, libraries, etc.), in contrast to the strategic Greater London Authority, which has limited authority over all of Greater London.

The councils were first elected in 1964 and acted as shadow authorities until 1 April 1965. Each borough is divided into electoral wards, subject to periodic review, for the purpose of electing councillors. Council elections take place every four years, with the most recent elections in 2018 and the next elections due in 2022.

The political make-up of London borough councils is dominated by the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties. Twenty-eight councils follow the leader and cabinet model of executive governance, with directly elected mayors in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, and Tower Hamlets. The City of London is instead governed by the City of London Corporation and the Inner and Middle Temples.

Purcell Room

The Purcell Room is a concert and performance venue which forms part of the Southbank Centre, one of central London's leading cultural complexes. It is named after the 17th century English composer Henry Purcell and has 370 seats. The Purcell Room has hosted a wide range of chamber music, jazz, mime and poetry recitals. In the context of the Southbank Centre it is the smallest of a set of three venues, the other two being the Royal Festival Hall, a large symphony hall, and the QEH, which is used for orchestral, chamber and contemporary amplified music.

The Purcell Room was built at the same time as the QEH, with which it shared a common foyer building and architectural features as an example of Brutalist architecture. The focus of the building is its interior space and it makes few concessions to external decoration. From outside, even its position within Southbank Centre is not easy to discern. The QEH and Purcell Room were designed, with The Hayward, as additions to the Southbank Centre arts complex by Hubert Bennett, head of the architects department of the Greater London Council, with Jack Whittle, F.G West and Geoffrey Horsefall.

The venue was temporarily closed in September 2015, for major renovations, and re-opened in 2018.

Stanmore Country Park, London

Stanmore Country Park is a 30.7 hectare public park, Local Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation in Stanmore in the London Borough of Harrow. It is owned and managed by Harrow London Borough Council.The park was part of the grounds of an eighteenth-century mansion called Warren House. In 1937 it was acquired by Middlesex County Council and Harrow Urban District Council as public open space. It was later owned by the Greater London Council and transferred to the London Borough of Harrow in 1976. The presence of wild service trees and mature hornbeam shows that part of it is ancient woodland. The main plants in grassland areas are common bent and Yorkshire fog, with tufted hair grass in damp areas.

The park has a diverse array of wildlife including Reeve's muntjac and red fox. There have also been reported sighting of European badger, weasel and even wild boar in the park although these "sightings" are unconfirmed. Bird life is also abundant within the park which contains several members of the tit family, blackbirds, magpies and crows. The park is also home to tawny owls, buzzards, sparrowhawks and kestrels.

There is access from Kerry Avenue and Dennis Lane.

Waste disposal authorities in London

Greater London has a number of waste disposal authorities, responsible for waste collection and disposal. Prior to the abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986, it was the waste authority for Greater London.

Greater London Council
City of London
Governance of Greater London

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