Southwark London Borough Council
Coat of arms or logo
Coat of arms
Council logo
Naima Ali,
since 22 May 2024[1]
Kieron Williams,
since 16 September 2020
Althea Loderick
since May 2022[2]
Seats63 councillors
Political groups
Administration (52)
  Labour (52)
Opposition (11)
  Liberal Democrats (11
First past the post
Last election
5 May 2022
Next election
7 May 2026
Meeting place
160 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2QH

Southwark London Borough Council, also known as Southwark Council, is the local authority for the London Borough of Southwark in Greater London, England. It is a London borough council, one of 32 in London. The council has been under Labour majority control since 2010. The council is based at 160 Tooley Street.


Southwark itself had been an ancient borough from at least the 12th century until the 19th century. However, for most of its history it was a manorial property of the neighbouring City of London rather than being a self-governing borough with its own corporation.[3]

From 1856 the area of the modern borough was governed by the Metropolitan Board of Works, which was established to provide services across the metropolis of London. In 1889 the Metropolitan Board of Works' area was made the County of London. From 1856 until 1900 the lower tier of local government within the metropolis comprised various parish vestries and district boards.[4] In 1900 the lower tier was reorganised into metropolitan boroughs, three of which were Bermondsey, Camberwell and Southwark, each with a borough council.[5]

The larger London Borough of Southwark and its council were created under the London Government Act 1963, with the first election held in 1964.[6] For its first year the council acted as a shadow authority alongside the area's three outgoing authorities, being the metropolitan borough councils of Southwark, Bermondsey and Camberwell. The new council formally came into its powers on 1 April 1965, at which point the old boroughs and their councils were abolished.[7] The council's full legal name is the "Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Southwark", but it styles itself Southwark Council.[8][2]

From 1965 until 1986 the council was a lower-tier authority, with upper-tier functions provided by the Greater London Council. The split of powers and functions meant that the Greater London Council was responsible for "wide area" services such as fire, ambulance, flood prevention, and refuse disposal; with the boroughs (including Southwark) responsible for "personal" services such as social care, libraries, cemeteries and refuse collection. The Greater London Council was abolished in 1986 and its functions passed to the London Boroughs, with some services provided through joint committees.[9] Southwark became a local education authority in 1990 when the Inner London Education Authority was dissolved.[10]

Since 2000 the Greater London Authority has taken some responsibility for highways and planning control from the council, but within the English local government system the council remains a "most purpose" authority in terms of the available range of powers and functions.[11]

In 2003 and 2004 the Southwark Council threatened the small community of houseboat dwellers at Downings Roads Moorings with eviction, which was appealed and ultimately quashed.[12]

From 2006, Southwark commenced implementation of a master data management system in conjunction with IBM UK Ltd., intending to rationalise "a number of disparate computerised systems" in use across the range of functions for which the Council was responsible. The project was abandoned after concerns that the recommended system adopted by Southwark was not satisfactory, but the Council was unsuccessful in its claim against IBM for breach of contract.[13][14]

Powers and functions

The local authority derives its powers and functions from the London Government Act 1963 and subsequent legislation, and has the powers and functions of a London borough council. It sets council tax and as a billing authority also collects precepts for Greater London Authority functions and business rates.[15] It sets planning policies which complement Greater London Authority and national policies, and decides on almost all planning applications accordingly. It is a local education authority and is also responsible for council housing, social services, libraries, waste collection and disposal, traffic, and most roads and environmental health.[16]

Political control

The council has been under Labour majority control since 2010.

The first election was held in 1964, initially operating as a shadow authority alongside the outgoing authorities until it came into its powers on 1 April 1965. Political control of the council since 1965 has been as follows:[17]

Party in control Years
Labour 1965–2002
No overall control 2002–2010
Labour 2010–present


The role of Mayor of Southwark is largely ceremonial. Political leadership is instead provided by the leader of the council. The leaders since 1965 have been:[18][19]

Councillor Party From To
Alfred John Kemp Labour 1965 1968
John O'Grady Labour 1968 1982
Alan Davis Labour 1982 1984
Tony Ritchie Labour 1984 1986
Annie Matthews Labour 1986 1990
Sally Keeble Labour 1990 1993
Jeremy Fraser Labour 1993 1997
Niall Duffy Labour 1997 2000
Stephanie Elsy Labour 2000 2002
Nick Stanton Liberal Democrats 2002 19 May 2010
Peter John Labour 19 May 2010 16 Sep 2020
Kieron Williams Labour 16 Sep 2020


Following the 2022 election the composition of the council was:

Party Councillors
Labour 52
Liberal Democrats 11
Total 63

The next election is due in May 2026.


See also: Southwark London Borough Council elections

Since the last boundary changes in 2018 the council has comprised 63 councillors representing 23 wards, with each ward electing two or three councillors. Elections are held every four years.[20]


The council is based at 160 Tooley Street.[21] The building comprises several converted Victorian warehouses facing the street, with a modern six-storey office building behind, which was completed in 2008.[22][23] The council moved in during 2009.[24] It initially rented the building, before purchasing it for £170 million in 2012.[25]

Southwark Town Hall, Camberwell: Council's headquarters until 2009

Prior to 2009 the council was based at Southwark Town Hall, formerly called Camberwell Town Hall, at 31 Peckham Road in Camberwell, which had been completed in 1934 for the old Camberwell Borough Council.[26]

Universal Credit trial

Southwark was one of the first areas where Universal Credit was fully introduced. The Council issued a report in 2018 which was strongly critical of Universal Credit.[27] Rent arrears among council tenants on Universal Credit are much higher than arrears among tenants on traditional benefits. Among two groups of council tenants investigated increase in arrears per claimant averaged between £586 and £309. The report disputed claims by ministers that rent arrears are temporary and notes that there are also arrears from tenants who have been on Universal Credit for over a year. Tenants who have been on Universal Credit for 15 months underpay rent by 7% on average. The report claims, "For now, the government must acknowledge that the current system is unworkable and broken. We strongly argue that the rollout of UC should be halted until radical steps are taken to fix the ongoing issues outlined in this research." Also use of food banks in Southwark has risen by 30% from 2017 to 2018 since Universal Credit was introduced there and 80% of the increase is attributed to Universal Credit. Victoria Mills of Southwark Council said, "Any delay to payments for those who are already under immense financial pressure will result in unrecoverable debt and unacceptable stress on people's lives. (...) A year on from our first research, the issues have simply got worse. We have to act on this evidence now and look at how we can support our residents and the pressure on our services. This situation is echoed across the country. The government needs to take rapid steps to fix universal credit or acknowledge that they have created a system that is unworkable and broken."[27]

See also


  1. ^ "Southwark Council names new Mayor and updated Cabinet". Southwark Council. 23 May 2024. Retrieved 25 May 2024.
  2. ^ a b "Chief executive". Southwark Council. Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  3. ^ A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4. London: Victoria County History. 1912. pp. 135–141. Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  4. ^ Metropolis Management Act 1855 (18 & 19 Vict. c. 120)
  5. ^ London Government Act 1899 (62 & 63 Vict. c. 14)
  6. ^ "London Government Act 1963",, The National Archives, 1978 c. 33, retrieved 16 May 2024
  7. ^ Youngs, Frederic (1979). Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England. Vol. I: Southern England. London: Royal Historical Society. ISBN 0901050679.
  8. ^ "Service Level Agreement" (PDF). Harrow Council. Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  9. ^ "Local Government Act 1985",, The National Archives, 1985 c. 51, retrieved 5 April 2024
  10. ^ Education Reform Act 1988 (c. 40)
  11. ^ Leach, Steve (1998). Local Government Reorganisation: The Review and its Aftermath. Routledge. p. 107. ISBN 978-0714648590.
  12. ^ "Boat evictions inquiry adjourned". BBC News. 2 March 2004. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  13. ^ Pinsent Masons LLP, The Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Southwark v IBM UK Ltd., published 9 September 2011, accessed 5 November 2022
  14. ^ England and Wales High Court (Technology and Construction Court), London Borough of Southwark v IBM UK Ltd., EWHC 549 (TCC), published 17 March 2011, accessed 5 November 2022
  15. ^ "Council Tax and Business Rates Billing Authorities". Council Tax Rates. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  16. ^ "Local Plan Responses – within and outside London". Mayor of London. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  17. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  18. ^ "Council minutes". Southwark Council. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
  19. ^ "London Boroughs Political Almanac". London Councils. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
  20. ^ "The London Borough of Southwark (Electoral Changes) Order 2016",, The National Archives, SI 2016/1202, retrieved 27 April 2024
  21. ^ "About Southwark Council". Southwark Council. Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  22. ^ "Tooley Street" (PDF). Post-Tensioning Association. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  23. ^ "160 Tooley Street: information pack" (PDF). Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Southwark Council begins move to Tooley Street offices". London SE1. 2 March 2009. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  25. ^ "London council buys Tooley Street HQ for £170m". Property Week. 13 December 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  26. ^ Beasley, John D. (2010). Camberwell Through Time. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1848685635.
  27. ^ a b Cowburn, A., Universal credit is 'broken' says report highlighting alarming rent arrears, The Independent, published 29 November 2018, accessed 5 November 2022