Feeling good, but not that good

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The Independent Online
YESTERDAY'S batch of economic statistics may point to 'boom boom' Britain, but in City wine bars and on Square Mile building sites the 'feel good' factor remains elusive.

Anecdotal evidence gleaned yesterday showed that most people are concentrating on keeping their jobs and on repaying debt rather than taking it on.

At the Broadgate Circle branch of the Corney & Barrow wine bar - a stark, modern affair where screens flash up share prices and clocks show the time in three different time zones - the mood was cautiously optimistic.

One City worker, sipping a half pint of lager, said: 'Back in 1988 a place like this would have been full of 20-year-olds drinking Veuve Clicquot and Bollinger and being really noisy. Now that sort of behaviour would be frowned upon. People may be drinking some champagne again, but they are less ostentatious.'

Outside, sipping coffee, a group of City solicitors emphasised another theme that is casting a long shadow over the economic recovery - job insecurity. Paul Claydon, a 29-year-old solicitor with Pinsent & Co, said that when he qualified all the people who completed their training were retained by their firms. Now, he says, 20 per cent are let go.

His colleague Irfan Ellam, who has just completed an MBA, also sees the difference. 'People were always looking around for the next job,' he says. 'Now people are sitting tight. Most firms have shed staff and that affects morale.'

Figures suggest that morale is improving. According to Balls Brothers, which has 14 wine bars in the City, champagne sales are up in every branch.

Sales of luxury cars are also motoring ahead after a tough recession. In the first five months of this year sales of BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes and Rolls-Royce models were all well up on last year.

However, the real boom is among company cars, indicating that while companies may be experiencing a 'feel good' factor the man on the street does not share it.

Loading up the lorry to go home yesterday afternoon, 40-year-old construction worker Brian Garrity certainly did not agree.

'It may be because I'm older but I definitely feel less confident,' he said. 'Back then it was like it was never going to end. You felt you could just walk into another job.

'Now I've had to work abroad for two years to make a living.'

(Photograph omitted)