Corporation of London cuts back City’s votes

The voting powers of lawyers working for law firms based in London’s Square Mile have significantly declined following a change of rules by the Corporation of London.

Most affected will be UK firms with a high proportion of their partnerships based outside of the City. Since 1851 all unlimited liability partnerships, as well as sole traders based in the Square Mile, have been allowed to vote in Corporation ward elections.

The number of votes given to each partnership and sole trader was, and remains, proportionate to their staff numbers. However, until now this was calculated on the basis of the total partnership, regardless of whether they were based in the City. The new rules, introduced in advance of the Corporation’s elections next March, deny voting rights to partners based outside the Square Mile. This deals a blow to those lawyers working overseas, the regions or elsewhere in London who wish to have some say in the future of the Square Mile.

The total number of votes that can be cast by non-limited liability partnerships (LLPs) and sole traders has dropped from 14,000 to 11,000. Firms affected include Ashurst Morris Crisp, Herbert Smith, Linklaters, Slaughter and May and Simmons & Simmons.

The Corporation argues that this has been offset by its decision to allow LLPs to vote. This restores voting rights to Eversheds and Clifford Chance, which lost them when they transferred to LLP status.

The 5,000 Square Mile LLPs can cast 15,000 votes. The 6,000 residents retain their voting rights. The sliding scale of votes start at nine staff for one vote and increase to 49 votes for 2,000 staff.

The Lord Mayor Gavyn Arthur, a former senior member of Harcourt Chambers, said: “The changes give the vote to international law firms [with LLP status], which is good news. The City is a world centre for business, finance and legal services, and now firms involved in this vital industry can have a say in how the City is run.”