London streets are not paved with gold

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The Independent Online

Six centuries after Dick Whittington's dream of a city rich beyond his dreams was crushed by reality, little has changed. London's image as a citadel of the wealthy is a fairytale, a study claimed yesterday.

An annual assessment of the capital's wealth has revealed that Londoners, far from being overpaid urbanites,are no better off than the rest of the nation.

The survey by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), an economic think-tank, found Londoners do earn 30 per cent more than average, bringing home £119 a week more than their counterparts in the shires. But high living costs, with housing costs 56 per cent higher than the UK average, and a quality of life marred by poor transport and cramped living space, mean Londoners are barely better off when it comes to standard of living or disposable income.

The study found that the disposable income of the typical Londoner is just 10 per cent, or £29, higher than the national average. Although Londoners are younger and better educated, with an average age of 36 (compared with 38.2 nationally) and 22 per cent boasting degrees (14.8 per cent nationally), they pay 13 per cent more in living costs than the British average.

Many public-sector employees have less to spend than colleagues in the regions and would see a net income rise of up to 75 per cent if they fled the Big Smoke. A teacher earning £30,000 in London – about £3,000 more than the national rate – would have a disposable income of £7,802, compared with £13,331 in the provinces.

Kevin McCauley, co-author of the study, said: "The popular image of Londoners all being City-type employees with huge salaries and a wine bar existence is patently untrue. Earnings may be higher, but the ... costs of living in the capital, combined with factors like long journey times into work, strip out virtually any net gain."

The CEBR found that Londoners pay an extra £38 a week in tax, £44 in higher food, fuel and other living costs and, in some cases, lose up to £8 a week through badly paid jobs.