'Leaving London means I can afford kids'

Readers on why the capital lost its sparkle

The Guardian - 31 July 2017

Almost 100,000 Londoners moved out last year. Here they, and others who are avoiding the city altogether, explain why it is no longer the place to be

The rate of Londoners leaving the capital is more than 80% higher than five years ago, according to Savills, with people in their thirties the age group most likely to leave.

We asked readers why they’re leaving London, or avoiding moving to the capital altogether. Here’s what you said:

‘Moving out means I can have more kids’ – anonymous, 41, from south London

Before we had kids, we really enjoyed all the nightlife London had to offer, but our perspective changed once we decided to start a family. Unless you are happy to accept your children will grow up around guns, knives, drugs and acid attacks, leave as quickly as you can. My block of flats, where properties go for £500k+ smells of weed half the time and I can see evidence of drug use in the corridors.

Comparatively, in Kent, we’re able to buy a four-bedroom house for two-thirds of the price of our two-bedroom flat in London. With mortgage payments slashed by half and no service charge, we are saving about £700 a month. As a consequence, we can afford to have a second (and maybe third) child and my wife can stop working as one salary will be enough. Her salary pretty much all went on tax, childcare and commuting costs before, anyway. I currently work as a firefighter and like most also have a second job. Our children will grow up away from gangs, surrounded by countryside in a village of less than 2,000 people, in a house with a garden. I have a feeling I will not miss London at all.

‘I’d rather live in a more humble city like Manchester’ – Akshay Bilolikar, 20, from Kettering

The idea of living in a big city does appeal to me, because I’m from a fairly rural background and have really enjoyed my time as a student in a small city like Oxford. London appeals to me because it really is the hub of all things cultural in Britain. However, the housing costs and that Londoners think they’re the centre of the universe gets on my nerves a bit. I’d much rather live in a more humble city like Manchester or Edinburgh. However, I suspect I’ll probably end up starting my career in London out of necessity – I’m interested into going into either consulting or journalism and all the big firms are still based in the capital. If, however, I have the opportunity to take a similar job in another big city I would take that in a heartbeat.

‘I am horrified how many thinktanks are so London focused’ – anonymous, 22, from Edinburgh

I am doing everything I can to find a job outside London. Having lived in Birmingham, Bristol and now Edinburgh I do not see the appeal of crippling rents or lack of countryside. I was brought up and educated in Birmingham at Birmingham’s expense so to take my education to London feels like a betrayal to my home city.

As someone who wants to go into public policy working for the whole of the country, I am also frequently horrified at how thinktanks, political commentators and politicians are all so London focused and don’t even realise it. Other UK cities are fantastic and have their own identities and history but are pushed to the back by a lack of investment and prejudice from a London-centric government and media. The majority of jobs in public policy are in London, unfortunately.

All my salary was being spent on living costs in London - Anon, 41

‘I took a pay cut but now have more disposable income’ – anonymous, 41, from Northampton

I have just moved out of London but only because I can’t afford it any more. I lived there for 12 years after moving from Australia. I would still live there if I could afford to enjoy it. At 41, there was no way I wanted to live in a house-share situation, but as a single person who was working full-time, I was never going to be able to afford to buy my own place, and all my salary was being spent on living costs. Moving out of London, I took a pay cut. But living somewhere cheaper, I now have more disposable income left at the end of the month than I did on a higher salary in London. I have only just moved but so far feel I have a more balanced life.

‘The idea of returning permanently fills me with dread’ – anonymous, 27, from Europe

I am a lecturer who works in London but recently moved abroad. For many years, life in London was a blessing. When I moved there in 2010 it was a fantastic city: less than £2 for an ale in a Sam Smith’s pub, cheap transport, good nightlife with great little clubs, free galleries, museums etc. But now the idea of returning permanently fills me with dread. I teach at a London university but I commute from the continent on a £20 Ryanair flight just when I’m needed, and stay with friends (all of whom are planning their own escape).

I am yet to decide where to permanently settle, but before article 50 was triggered I put in formal residency applications to two countries. I had planned to start my career in London and my girlfriend, a fellow academic from Germany, was applying for London jobs. Obviously, that changed post-referendum result. I may have to move back but I like living on the continent – the bars close when they want, there’s a marked lack of prominent social inequality … and no one asks where I went to school.

‘I have made connections in Birmingham and I would be stupid to waste those opportunities’ – Maddy, 20, from Birmingham

I’m a PR student at Birmingham City University. Living in London does appeal to me, but I’ve decided to start my career in Birmingham. There may be more job opportunities in London, but there is also more competition, and with the cost of living being so high, for me, it’s not worth it. I previously ruled out studying there purely because of the cost of living. I have made connections in Birmingham whilst studying here and I would be stupid to waste those opportunities on the off-chance I’ll get a job at a more well known agency. Birmingham is on the rise and the opportunities are increasing all the time. It’s a friendly city where I feel at home.

‘Starting a family is incompatible with London life’ – anonymous, 31, from Devon

Reluctantly, I am now working from home in Devon after some very happy years in London. I am hoping to start a family and was worried about affording rent and childcare on one salary in London. I tried commuting from the south-west to London but it is not the same. Since moving here, I have missed the buzz of the city every day. London attracts amazing open-minded people from all over the UK and the world. You never run out of things to do or see.

My experience in Devon has been isolating, depressing and lonely. I am tempted to move back for the lifestyle and because I think it would be good for any children I have to meet more diverse people and have experiences they would never have here. But starting a family is incompatible with London life. I can afford a four-bedroom house with a garden in a safe area here for the price of a one-bed flat in London. Despite this, ultimately, I think we will head back – the buzz and lifestyle outweigh the cons.

‘I was sick of the crowds and the casual contempt’ – Pippa, 46, from Sheffield

I lived in London for 17 years, after moving down south with my ex-husband for his job. By 2014, I felt I needed to get out – I was desperate to live near the seaside or the hills and sick of the crowds everywhere, the casual contempt and how expensive everything was. When I got offered a job in Sheffield, I jumped at the opportunity to move up north and rent my London house out – I was no longer with my husband by this point.

I used to love going out to restaurants and to the theatre in London but the hassle had started to outweigh my enjoyment of the city. We lived in Hackney and often found ourselves travelling an hour to get to the kids’ activities. Now where they play sport is in walking distance. Sheffield does feel a bit more scruffy than London, all the industry’s gone and now the NHS and the universities are the main employers. But here people are kind to strangers, journeys are easy, housing is reasonable and we get to spend our weekends walking in the Peak District. It’s been a joy.


View the original article here.

Key Facts

  • The rate of Londoners leaving the capital is more than 80% higher than five years ago