The term Greater London has been and still is used to describe different areas in governance, statistics, history and common parlance.
In terms of ceremonial counties, London is divided into the small City of London and the much wider Greater London. This arrangement has come about because as the area of London grew and absorbed neighbouring settlements, a series of administrative reforms did not amalgamate the City of London with the surrounding metropolitan area, and its unique political structure was retained. Outside the limited boundaries of the City, a variety of arrangements has governed the wider area since 1855, culminating in the creation of the Greater London administrative area in 1965.
The term Greater London was used well before 1965, particularly to refer to the Metropolitan Police District (such as in the 1901 census), the area of the Metropolitan Water Board (favoured by the London County Council for statistics), the London Passenger Transport Area and the area defined by the Registrar General as the Greater London Conurbation. The Greater London Arterial Road Programme was devised between 1913 and 1916. One of the larger early forms was the Greater London Planning Region, devised in 1927, which occupied 1,856 square miles (4,810 km2) and included 9 million people.
Proposals to expand the County of London
Although the London County Council (LCC) was created covering the County of London in 1889, the county did not cover all the built-up area, particularly West Ham and East Ham, and many of the LCC housing projects, including the vast Becontree Estates, were outside its boundaries. The LCC pressed for an alteration in its boundaries soon after the end of the First World War, noting that within the Metropolitan and City Police Districts there were 122 housing authorities. A Royal Commission on London Government was set up to consider the issue. The LCC proposed a vast new area for Greater London, with a boundary somewhere between the Metropolitan Police District and the home counties. Protests were made at the possibility of including Windsor, Slough and Eton in the authority. The Commission made its report in 1923, rejecting the LCC's scheme. Two minority reports favoured change beyond the amalgamation of smaller urban districts, including both smaller borough councils and a central authority for strategic functions. The London Traffic Act 1924 was a result of the Commission. Reform of local government in the County of London and its environs was next considered by the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London, chaired by Sir Edwin Herbert, which issued the 'Herbert Report' after three years of work in 1960. The commission applied three tests to decide if a community should form part of Greater London: how strong is the area as an independent centre in its own right; how strong are its ties to London; and how strongly is it drawn outwards towards the country rather than inwards towards London.
Greater London is formally created
Greater London was formally created by the London Government Act 1963, which came into force on 1 April 1965, replacing the administrative counties of Middlesex and London, including the City of London, where the London County Council had limited powers, and absorbing parts of Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey. Greater London originally had a two-tier system of local government, with the Greater London Council (GLC) sharing power with the City of London Corporation (governing the small City of London) and the 32 London Borough councils. The GLC was abolished in 1986 by the Local Government Act 1985. Its functions were devolved to the City Corporation and the London Boroughs, with some functions transferred to central government and joint boards. Greater London formed the London region in 1994.
The 1998 London referendum established a public will to recreate an upper tier of government to cover the region. The Greater London Authority, London Assembly and the directly elected Mayor of London were created in 2000 by the Greater London Authority Act 1999. In 2000, the outer boundary of the Metropolitan Police District was re-aligned to the Greater London boundary. The 2000 and 2004 mayoral elections were won by Ken Livingstone (L), who had been the final leader of the GLC. The 2008 and 2012 elections were won by Boris Johnson (C). The 2016 election was won by Sadiq Khan (L).