Renewed pressure for City reform

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The Independent Online

Pressure on the Corporation of London to change its archaic and allegedly undemocratic system of government will increase today when a second reform candidate stands for election.

Just a day after the ancient Court of Aldermen, one of two chambers of the Corporation, met to reconsider its blackballing of the millionaire entrepreneur Malcolm Matson, Keith Miles, a former company finance director, is contesting the Castle Baynard ward on a reform ticket.

The Castle Baynard election is being re-run after complaints that it was not properly publicised. Richard Agutter, the uncontested candidate last time, will now face competition.

Mr Miles's influential backers - including Sir Samuel Brittan, assistant editor of the Financial Times, Sir John Nott, company chairman and former Secretary of State for Defence, and Graham Mather, MEP and president of the European Policy Forum - suggest the push for change among City businesses is gaining momentum.

The Court of Alderman will next week either announce a change of heart on Mr Matson or, following an Appeal Court ruling, be forced to give reasons for rejecting a member.

The Aldermen have been heavily criticised over their election for life. Critics claim they run an incestuous, self-perpetuating club for the privileged and that many members of the 23-strong body went to the same public school and are following in the steps of fathers and grandfathers.

The Aldermen all serve as Lord Mayor for a year at one time and a knighthood is practically guaranteed. They deny that they operate an elite club or old boys' network or that freemasonry is almost a pre- requisite to membership.

Mr Miles and Mr Matson want to increase the City's franchise. This would remove the traditional voting power from City accountancy firms. The Corporation is the only United Kingdom local council to retain the business vote.