Greater London is the top level administrative subdivision covering London, England. It is one of the nine regions of England. The administrative area of Greater London covers the large conurbation which comprises the City of London, the City of Westminster and 31 other London boroughs, and encompasses what is commonly known simply as London, capital of England and the United Kingdom. It covers 1579 km2 (609 sq. mi) and had a population of 7,172,036 at the 2001 census.
Since 2000 the Greater London region has been administered by the Greater London Authority (the "GLA"), and has a directly-elected Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who is scrutinised by an elected London Assembly. The headquarters of the GLA is in Southwark.
The status of Greater London is somewhat unusual. It is officially classified as a Ceremonial county (excluding the City of London, which is a Ceremonial county itself) and as one of the nine official Regions of England. It is the only English region with wide ranging devolved powers, an elected regional assembly or a directly elected leader position. It contains 32 London boroughs (including the City of Westminster), which are effectively unitary authorities, and the City of London, which has a unique government dating back to the 12th Century.
The term "London" is usually used in reference to Greater London or to the urban conurbation, not to the tiny City of London at its centre (which is usually styled as "the City" or "the Square Mile"). In strict legal terms however Greater London is not a city and does not have official city status (though one London borough, Westminister, is officially a city, as well as the City of London itself). However in practical terms Greater London is effectively a single city, and is commonly thought of as such.
Greater London was formally created on 1 April 1965, replacing the former administrative counties of Middlesex and London, adding the City, which was not under the London County Council, and absorbing parts of Kent, Hertfordshire, Surrey, and Essex. Greater London is bounded by the Home Counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey, and Kent.
Greater London originally had a two-tier system of local government, with the Greater London Council (GLC) sharing power with the Corporation of London (governing the small City of London) and the 32 London borough councils. The Greater London Council was abolished in 1986 under the government of Margaret Thatcher, with some of its functions devolved to the Corporation and the boroughs, and others reverting to central government. In 2000 the Labour government created a Greater London Authority consisting of a London Assembly and a Mayor of London to govern the entire area. The 2000 and 2004 Mayoral elections were both won by Ken Livingstone, the final leader of the GLC.
Greater London's population rose from 1.1 million in 1801 to an estimated 8.5 million in 1939, but declined to 6.5 million in the 1980s. The population is now rising again and is expected to reach 8.15 million by 2016. Wider definitions of London's metropolitan area (the London commuter belt) extend over a far larger region with up to fourteen million inhabitants, but generally include districts distinct from London proper.
The term 'Greater London' had been used before 1965, particularly to refer to the area covered by the Metropolitan Police Service (which did not coincide with Greater London until 2000), however the term 'Metropolitan Police District' is now preferred.