Whither London?

I feel as if there is a crescendo of doom-mongering about London.

Some of the most expensive footfall in the world

Most notable for me was a piece a week or two ago by Simon Kuper in the FT. Kuper argues that three things threaten to diminish London, risking it following Vienna and Constantinople into decline:

  • Covid-19. Covid means lockdown. And lockdown means working from home. Kuper argues that “though working from home threatens all cities, it disproportionately threatens London”.
  • Brexit. The “UK-EU trade deal does little for London”. In the first week of the Brexit new world, apparently €6bn a day of stock trading moved from the UK into the eurozone, which alone could be worth has much as £20bn a year of lost revenues (a quarter of the UK’s services trade surplus). I hear rumours that Goldman Sachs is yet to move 2000 roles from the UK into the EU. That is a lot of tax that won’t be paid to HMRC, and fancy dinners no longer being enjoyed in the West End.
  • The role of English. Kuper argues that “a decade ago there was no obvious European substitute for London. Now, cities like Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam have become quasi-bilingual business hubs.”

Kuper cites house price data as suggesting that “local rivals are eating into London’s supremacy”: London’s prices have fallen (in international terms) since 2016, whereas Parisian prices are up about 25%. More money is going into Paris’ office space than London’s in 2019, the year before the pandemic.

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Salaries in London: real life examples

I wrote a post some months ago about how London now requires £500k of income a year – at least according to some high-achieving friends of mine, based on the privileged way they live their lives.  They are one per centers who deserve their success but they do identify with ‘the squeezed middle’. But given the interest in that post I thought it worth discussing exactly what sorts of careers earn how much in London right now.

Obviously I don’t have full knowledge of every Londoner’s personal finances.  I do however help hire (and occasionally fire) people in London’s private sector on a frequent basis, and have experience of this in large companies and small.  This gives me some useful data points. I’m sure there are myriad exceptions to my general rules, but here goes anyway. I would summarise London’s current pay strata as follows: Continue reading “Salaries in London: real life examples”

Minimum salary required in London: £500k?

I have not one, not two, but at least three good friends (couples) who would broadly agree with the statement that you (/one / they) need £500k of salary to live in London.  Can this be right?  You need at least 20x the official statistical median wage – really?

First a couple of caveats.  The friends I’m thinking of are all ‘fully fledged families’ – dual income mum+dad, with 2-4 kids.  By dint of being dual income, they need paid-for childcare.  They all live in premium parts of London – all in zone 1. They are not blind to the very affluent and privileged lives that they live, but nor are they totally removed from the real world; they aren’t oligarchs.   They also aren’t wildly excessive compared to a bunch of other friends; I know a lot of Londoners who would be a similar camp to these guys.

Secondly these friends all live very comfortable lives.  Regular ski trips, Michelin-starred restaurants, frequent use of taxis, babysitters used at least once a week – these are all a given.  But they all have budgets, manage their finances pretty carefully, and bitch about the cost of living.

Continue reading “Minimum salary required in London: £500k?”