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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GLC
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1810-1988
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 1714.64 linear metres
Name of creator(s): GLC | Greater London Council x Greater London Council


Administrative/Biographical 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 was 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. These included refuse disposal, Thames flood prevention, land drainage, the fire service, supply service for local authorities, and research, intelligence and scientific services. 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.


Scope and content/abstract:

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.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Records arranged by Department, GLC/AR (Architect's Department) to GLC/TD (Transportation and Development Department).

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Records received in multiple accessions between 1990 and 2008 (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).

Allied Materials

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

Publication note:

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).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2009

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