nor does it have a budget of $1.2 billion, nor anything like it.
Well, there is the City’s Cash, which is "not governed by any statutes or regulations and there is no statutory requirement to publish the City’s Cash annual report and financial statements." The non-required annual report goes on to state that as of March 2013 it had net assets worth ₤1.8 billion. Of course, that's not the same thing as an operating budget. If I'm reading the summary budget right the City this year has about ₤550 in revenue and ₤555 million in expenses.
All proposed legislation (or Bills as they are better known) are available on the Parliament website for anybody, anywhere in the world to view for free.
Yes, anyone can read the Hansard and other business online. I suspect not everyone gets to regularly meet face-to-face with Select Committees and department officials, which is explicitly described as a duty of the Remembrancer on page 76 of the above-mentioned summary budget. In my general experience direct, personal contact with legislators is something valuable enough for people to spend large sums of money to get.
Up until the 1980s all principal councils in England and Wales set their own business rate.
And now they don't, except for the City. The City's own website describes their current situation as "unique".
It is an Urban Myth that businesses can vote. See my comment on a previous doctorow post:
Would that be the post where you say "15,581 [voters] are either appointees of businesses (or institutions such as churches, charities and educational establishments) or they are sole traders or members of partnerships."? Because that sounds quite a bit like businesses voting. I will cop to technical imprecision in that businesses don't directly vote but instead nominate employees to do so.