London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:

1810 - 1988

Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Records of the Greater London Council, 1810-1988. Papers of the Architect's Department including the Building Regulations Division, Street Naming Section, District Surveyors, Education Division, Maintenance Division, Engineering Division, Structural Engineer, Historic Buildings Division, Housing and Town Development Branch, Technical Publications, Photograph Library, Plan Registry, Special Works Branch and Technical Policy Division; and papers of the GLC London Community Builders.

    Papers of the Director-General's Department, including papers of the Administration Division, Finance Division, Personnel Division, Registry and Dispatch Division, Record Office and Library, Director-General's Board, Public Health and Safety Programme Board, Ceremonial Office, Entertainments Licensing Group, Ethnic Minorities Unit, Housing and Technical Services Committees, Industry and Employment Branch, Intelligence Unit and Policy Study Groups, Judicial Services Section, Majority Party Secretariat, Member's Support Unit, Minority Party Secretariat, Police Committee Support Unit, Professional and General Services Committee, Programme Office, Policy and Resources Group, Public Relations Branch, Public Services and Fire Brigade Department, Planning Transport and Industry Group, Scrutiny Committee, Secretariat, Scientific Services Branch, Town Development Committee and Women's Committee Support Unit. Also Committee agendas, minutes and papers, periodicals, and publications of the Council.

    Papers of the London Fire Brigade administrative branch. Papers of the Public Health Engineering Department, including the Rivers Branch and the Solid Waste Management Branch. Papers of the Housing Department, including the Controller of Housing and Technical Services, the Directors of Housing, the Development Branch, Management Branch, Professional Services Branch, Renewals Branch and Thamesmead Branch. Papers of the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Department including the Design and Technical Policy Branch and the Maintenance Branch.

    Papers of the Medical Adviser's Department including the School Health Division, Health and Housing Division, Inspectorate, Mental Deficiency case files and Slum Clearance case files. Papers of the Recreation and Arts Department including papers of the Director of Development and Controller of Operational Services, papers of the General Landscaping Division, Housing Landscaping Division, Thamesmead Landscaping Division, Planning and Strategy Division, Architectural Design and Construction Division, General Practice Surveying Division, Entertainments and Fairs Division, Information and Publicity Division, Sports Division, Grants Branch, Open Space and Recreation Branch, Horticulture Division, Open Air Entertainments Division and Parks Department.

    Papers of the Supply Department. Papers of the Transportation and Development Department, including papers of the Controller of Transportation and Development, papers of the Construction Branch, Statutory Division, Local Plans Division, Land Use Section, Programme Management and Resources Branch, Cycling Project Team, Chief Traffic Engineer, Traffic Control Division, Plan Registry, Traffic Management Section, Transport Planning Branch, Environmental Management Division, and Policy and Projects Division. Also Greater London Development Plan files, photographs, technical publications, and Greater London traffic surveys.

    Also papers of individual members of the GLC including Ken Livingstone, GLC Leader 1981-1986; Paul Boateng, Chairman of GLC Police Committee, 1981-1986; Sir Horace Cutler, GLC Leader, 1977-1981; papers of staff clubs and societies and non-GLC publications concerning the Council and its work.
Extent: 1714.64 linear metres
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives; some items held offsite
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • In 1957 the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London was set up under the chairmanship of Sir Edwin Herbert. Their terms of reference were 'to examine the present system and working of local government in the area' and 'to recommend whether any, and if so what, changes in the local government structure and the distribution of local authority functions in the area, or any part of it, would better secure effective and convenient local government'. After nearly three years consideration of these issues the Commission reported in 1960, recommending a radical reorganisation of London's local government. All existing local authorities except the City of London Corporation were to be abolished, a council for Greater London was to be established, and new boroughs were to be created. When the Local Government Act, based on the Royal Commission report, was introduced into Parliament it met with considerable opposition. Some amendments were passed, but the Bill was passed into law without major alterations. An Inner London Education Authority was provided so that education could continue to be handled on a wider county level. Thirty-two new London borough councils were established, and the Greater London Council (GLC) was formed. The first elections were held in 1965. The GLC replaced the London County Council (LCC) and covered a much wider area, incorporating much of Middlesex and parts of Surrey, Hertfordshire Kent and Essex into 'Greater London'.

    The GLC had overall responsibility at a strategic level for local government in the Greater London area. The Council's role was to improve the well being of all those who lived in, worked in or visited London; to safeguard and promote London's interests and to influence the conditions necessary for future social, economic and physical development. The Council was responsible for a number of services which were considered best dealt with on a London-wide basis, rather than managed individually by each borough. The council also had policy and financial control of London Transport. The GLC worked closely with the 32 London boroughs and the Corporation of London and shared responsibility with them for road planning, traffic management, housing and the provision of parks and open spaces. The GLC also worked with the Inner London Education Authority to provide educational services for Inner London.

    The Council comprised 92 Members, each elected for single Member electoral areas identical with the parliamentary constituencies. Elections took place every four years. The Chairman of the Council was elected annually, and had to preside at Council and act as host or representative of the Council on civic and ceremonial occasions. The majority political party represented on the Council exercised political control through the Leader's Committee, a policy coordinating body which set the policy framework for the rest of the Council. The Leader of the Council was its political head, elected by the majority party. There was also a Leader of the Opposition, elected by his Party colleagues. The majority parties were as follows:
    1964 election: Labour
    1967 election: Conservative
    1970 election: Conservative
    1973 election: Labour
    1977 election: Conservative
    1981 election: Labour.

    The Council managed its activities by setting objectives, developing policies and plans, determining priorities and allocating resources to enable them to be carried out. Programmes of work were implemented, controlled and monitored to ensure the effective use of resources. The Council appointed a number of Committees to oversee its work, each with membership reflecting the political composition of the overall Council. The Committees were organised into four main policy groups. Within the policy framework set by the Leader's Committee, the Policy Committee of each group developed major policies and exercised overall control and policy direction within the group. Responsibility for objectives, policies, plans, general supervision and control in the several areas within each group rested with management committees. The four main Policy Committees were as follows:

    The Policy and Resources Committee dealt with:
    * the major elements of a comprehensive strategic policy for Greater London and the framework for its achievement, including links with other bodies
    * the coordination of the principal objectives of the Council's programmes and their relationship to its strategic policies
    * the balance between the Council's programmes and the resources available
    * the Council's general management framework
    * financial and manpower planning and policy
    * the budget of the Council and the London Transport Executive
    * tourism
    * security and review of performance
    * oversight of Management Committees.
    Sub-committees included the Finance and Establishment Committee, the General Management Committee, the Legal and Parliamentary Committee and the Professional and General Services Committee.

    The Planning and Communications Committee was responsible for:
    * discharging the Council's function as strategic planning authority including the monitoring, review and amendment of the Greater London Development Plan and the formulation of guidelines for its implementation
    * liaising on broad planning and transport policies with various statutory and other bodies
    * developing policies and programmes for passenger and freight transport for Greater London
    * making recommendations to the Council for the approval of Transport Policies and Programmes, for the approval of the general level and structure of fares on London Transport, for directions to the London Transport Executive and on the appointment of members of the Executive
    * laying down guidelines for the exercise of the Council's powers and duties under the Community Land Act 1975
    * considering aspect of aviation as it affects Greater London.
    Sub-committees included the Area Planning Committees, Industry and Employment Committee, London Transport Committee, Covent Garden Committee and Historic Buildings Committee.

    The Housing Policy Committee was responsible for:
    * all housing policy
    * matters relating to the acquisition, purchase and development of housing by all agencies
    * rehabilitation and improvement of housing owned by the Council
    * home loans
    * matters relating to the management, maintenance and disposal of the Council's dwellings
    * the planning and development of Thamesmead
    * matters relating to new and expanding towns.
    Sub-committees included the Housing Development Committee, Housing Management Committee, Thamesmead Committee and Town Development Committee.

    The Recreation and Community Services Committee determined policy in relation to:
    * recreation
    * the Green Belt
    * smallholdings
    * support of the arts
    * public health and safety
    * London Fire Brigade
    * entertainments licensing.
    Sub-committees included the Arts Committee, the Fire Brigade Committee, the Open Spaces and Recreation Committee and the Public Services Committee.

    The permanent staff of the Council were headed by the Director-General, the Council's Chief Executive. His Board, consisting of the Council's most senior officers (known as Controllers), advised Members on policy matters and major issues and were responsible for the implementation of Council decisions. The Council's business was divided into six programme areas - housing, transportation, public health and safety, recreation and community services, planning, and general services - each managed by a Board chaired by a Controller. The Board brought together representatives of all departments concerned with that programme area. The Council's permanent staff were organised into 14 specialist departments, each with its own internal management headed by a chief officer. The 14 departments were: Architecture and Civic Design, Establishments, Fire Brigade, Housing, Legal and Parliamentary, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Director General's, Medical, Parks, Planning and Transportation, Public Health Engineering, Supplies, Treasurer's, and Valuation and Estates.

    From 1981 onwards the GLC, led by Ken Livingstone, and the Conservative government of the time, led by Margaret Thatcher, had a series of high profile clashes. These mostly related to GLC policies which were considered at odds with central government policy - for example, the government wished to cut public spending but the GLC pursued a high-spend policy, notably through subsidy of transport fares. In 1983 the government proposed to abolish the GLC and the six metropolitan county councils, citing the inefficient bureaucracy of the Council and claiming that local boroughs could perform the same functions. A campaign was launched in opposition of the proposal to abolish but was unsuccessful. The GLC ceased to exist on 1 April 1986. Its functions were divided between local boroughs, central government and new London wide bodies such as the London Planning Advisory Committee, the London Research Centre, and the London Ecology Unit.

    In 2000 a new Greater London Authority was established, performing a similar function to the GLC. RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE COUNCIL
    The first meeting of the new council was on April 27 1964. The Greater London Joint Committee, which had been set up to establish its committee and departmental structure, presented a report outlining the council's responsibilities. These were wide-ranging and fell into the following categories:

    1. Road traffic and highways
    The GLC had a general duty to exercise its powers relating to road traffic and highways so as to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of traffic in Greater London and the provision of suitable parking facilities off and on the highway. In doing so it had to have regard to securing and maintaining reasonable access to premises and the effect on the amenities of any locality affected. The report draws special attention to various aspects of road traffic management, notably traffic control, traffic signs, parking, metropolitan roads, pedestrian crossings and speed limits.

    2. Vehicle and driving licensing
    The council was the licensing and registration authority for motor vehicles and the authority for licensing drivers. These functions could not be delegated

    3. Housing
    The council had the power to exercise any of the powers executed by the London County Council as a housing authority. It also had power to provide housing, within or outside Greater London, to make loans to house purchasers and to improve or convert houses.
    Where the council provided housing in Greater London as part of a comprehensive development scheme under the Town and Country Planning Act 1962, or the rehousing of persons displaced as the result of action it had taken in the exercise of any of its powers, the consent of the borough was not required. Otherwise, the council, before building in Greater London, had to obtain the consent of the borough council or, failing that, the consent of the Minister who was required to have regard to the needs of the borough as well as those of Greater London as a whole.
    The council waas not permitted to delegate any of its housing functions but could agree with a borough council for one authority to act for the other on an agency basis.
    The council was required to maintain records showing the housing needs of Greater London and was enabled to require the borough councils to inform them of their proposals for meeting the needs. Each borough council was required to maintain a housing register and supply the council with details of every application and of the action taken to house the applicants. The council was also required to provide facilities for the exchange of housing accommodation whether within or outside Greater London.
    All housing land held by the London County Council was taken over by the GLC. All other local authority housing land in Greater London rested in the borough councils. The Minister was required to provide for the transfer of housing land either from the GLC to a borough council or vice versa for the purpose of the Housing Act 1957, or to a Housing Association.
    Any contribution the council made to its housing revenue account for the year 1965-66 was chargeable on inner London only. Over the following six years an increasing proportion of such contributions were chargeable on Greater London as a whole until 1972-73 when the whole of such contributions were chargeable.
    The borough councils were the primary housing authorities within their areas but they were not enabled to permit housing outside the Greater London area.

    4. Town development
    The council had full powers under the Town Development Act 1952

    5. Planning and building regulation
    a) The GLC was the local planning authority for Greater London as a whole. It was required to organise a survey and submit proposals for alterations at any time in consultation with the borough councils.
    Both the GLC and the borough councils had concurrent powers to make and enforce building preservation orders. The council was not permitted to delegate its planning functions except by consent of the Minister
    b) The London building acts applied to the inner London boroughs and the City of London. The provisions of those acts relating to street naming and numbering and building also applied to the outer London boroughs.
    c) The council had duties as a fire authority as regards means of escape and other fire precautions

    6. Local Education Authority
    The outer London boroughs were education authorities for their areas. The GLC, acting through a special committee (the Inner London Education Authority) was the education authority for the inner London area

    7. Sewage and trade effluent
    The council took over all sewers and sewage disposal which had been vested in the London and Middlesex County Councils, the Wandle Valley Main Drainage Authority, the North Surrey Joint Sewage Board and the Richmond Main Sewage Board. Within Greater London, the council was the local authority for the regulation of trade effluents discharged into main and local sewers.

    8. Flood prevention and land drainage
    The council was the sole authority for main metropolitan water courses (including the River Ravensbourne) and had concurrent powers with the borough councils for certain metropolitan water courses. It was also the responsible authority under the Thames Flood Prevention Acts as extended to cover Greater London.

    9. Refuse disposal
    The council was responsible for the disposal of refuse collected by the borough councils

    10. Parks, open spaces, green belt and smallholdings
    Both the council and the borough councils had powers both to provide and maintain parks and open spaces. The council took over any land which had been held by the London or Middlesex County Councils and used as a park or open space. The council was also responsible for Green Belt land vested in the London or Middlesex County Councils and was the authority for smallholdings in Greater London.

    11. Fire service
    The council was the fire authority for Greater London

    12. Ambulance service
    The council was responsible for the ambulance service of Greater London until 1973.

    13. Civil defence
    The council performed duties under the Civil Defence Acts as a fire authority, and duties relating to the ambulance service, casualties, stretcher bearing and First Aid. The council and the borough councils had concurrent powers as regards the dispersal of the civil population.

    14. Patronage of the arts
    The council took over certain functions of the London County Council including the Royal Festival Hall and the Iveagh Bequest. It had the power to acquire and commission works of art and to provide or contribute toward the provision of theatres, concert halls and entertainments of any kind. The council and the borough councils had concurrent powers to provide entertainments.

    15. Licensing
    The council was the authority for licences relating to petroleum spirit, for licensing theatres and public entertainments and for licensing horse racing and dog racing tracks for betting.

    16. Voluntary organisations
    The council had the power to contribute towards the funds of voluntary organisations concerned with health, welfare and children

    17. Coroners
    The council was the local authority for Greater London for the purposes of the Coroners Acts. It and adjoining county councils were required to review their areas and prepare draft orders for the division of areas into coroners' districts or for the alteration of existing districts. The council was required to appoint a sufficient number of coroners for Greater London. It was enabled to provide and maintain accommodation for the holding of inquests which otherwise had to be provided by the borough councils.

    18. Research and information
    The council was required to establish an organisation to undertake research and collect information relating to matters concerning Greater London and to make any such information available to other local authorities in Greater London, to government departments and to the public.
    Any appropriate minister was empowered to require the council to provide any information available to it or to a borough council or to the Common Council of the City of London in consequence of the exercise of its statutory powers. The council was responsible for the preparation and publication of the Survey of London. The council was empowered to arrange publicity for amenities and advantages of Greater London except commercial and industrial advantages.

    19. Records and archives
    The council had powers under the Local Government Records Act 1962 to accept responsibility for the custody of records relating to Greater London and to provide facilities for their use and research.

    20. Central purchasing
    The council was empowered to purchase, store and supply to borough councils and certain other bodies any goods or materials required by them for the discharge of their functions.
    At its inception the council was made up of a network of member level committees and officer-run departments. The officer who held the balance between the member level committees and the departments was the Clerk to the Council. The principal responsibility of the Clerk was to be the chief administrative and co-ordinating officer with a general responsibility for ensuring that the council's business was carried on with order, regularity and expedition. He was the principal adviser to the Chairman of the Council and the chairmen of the Standing Committees. The basic structure of the council changed relatively little at member level, but there were several departmental reorganisations. Although some responsibilities were lost, such as the ambulance service in 1973, others were added. In 1977/8 the Marshall Report suggested that the council should assume responsibility for industry and employment and so this function was added to the list of main committees. By 1983 responsibility for minority groups and monitoring of the police force were added to the list.

    Except during recess the council met on a regular basis, either the second or third Tuesday of the month. One full meeting of the council was however held annually to select the chairman and aldermen. The chairman served as the council's civic head and, although he was a member of the majority party, he usually refrained from political activity during his year in office. He was responsible for presiding over council meetings, acting as host and representing the council and the people of London on ceremonial and civic occasions. The council appointed another member of the majority party to be vice-chairman and a deputy chairman was appointed from the largest minority party. These members comprised the dais and presided at council meetings. The two other most significant appointments were the Leader of the Council and the Leader of the Opposition.
Creator: GLC | Greater London Council x Greater London Council
Copyright: City of London
Source of Acquisition:
  • Records received in multiple accessions between 1990 and 2008 (AC/53/006; ACC/2806, ACC/3579, ACC/3587, ACC/3619, ACC/3810, B00/117, B01/029, B01/046, B01/086, B02/055, B04/037, B04/091, B04/094, B04/112, B05/029, B05/034, B05/122, B05/142, B05/142, B06/113, B07/122, B08/069 and B98/187).
Access Restrictions: These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 2018
Physical Condition: Fit
Arrangement: Records arranged by Department, GLC/AR (Architect's Department) to GLC/TD (Transportation and Development Department).
Related Material: A large number of leaflets, pamphlets, press cuttings and other publications relating to or published by the GLC are available in the LMA Library, generally at reference 19.0. Please see the card index in the Information Area for more information.

Related records on the government of London held at LMA:
Metropolitan Board of Works: reference MBW
City of London: references COL and CLA
London School Board: reference SBL
Boards of Guardians: various references e.g. BBG for Bermondsey Board of Guardians
Metropolitan Asylums Board: reference MAB
Central Unemployed Body: reference CUB
Middlesex County Council: reference MCC
Inner London Education Authority: reference ILEA
London County Council: reference LCC
Appraisal: Some records have been appraised and destroyed. Further weeding is scheduled.
Publication Notes:

There is no general history of the GLC. However, publications by the GLC which explain their policies and functions can be found in the LMA History Library, generally at reference 19.0. Examples include "The Way the GLC Works" (1977) (reference P19.1 GLC), "Facts and Figures about the Greater London Council and Inner London Education Authority, 1966" (reference P19.0 1966) and "Working for London: the Final Five Years: A summary of the GLC's Major Achievements, 1980-1985" (reference 19.0 1985).