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Photography Clem Onojeghuo via Unsplash

London is no longer ‘fun’ or ‘cool’ according to economist

A senior economist has expressed worry that a post-pandemic world will see the capital become more and more of a ghost town

Samuel Johnson once said “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, but after the year we’ve been having, maybe we are all a little tired of life. And it seems that London might be losing its cool. 

Pablo Shah, a senior economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), has warned that the capital could have lost its aura as a “fun” place to work, particularly for those people in the digital and creative industries.

“We had a management meeting in the office last Tuesday and were able to see what London looks like as the lockdown eases. To be frank, it looked like a ghost town,” Shah said. “London last week did not look very attractive to the talent it needs.”

With the majority of offices allowing staff to continue to work from home amidst a pandemic that still poses a major threat, it’s perhaps not surprising that London looks like a “ghost town.” Particularly after the government backtracked last week on its latest round of lockdown easing after worries it could trigger a full-blown resurgence of the coronavirus.

Many large companies including Google and NatWest Group are allowing employees to work from home until next year. CEBR predicts that in 2021, the “new normal” will be 30 per cent of London-based employees working at home on any one day. With decreased spending on things like lunch and after-work drinks, this could result in £178m of lost spending compared with before the coronavirus crisis. 

The Great British Brain Drain, a study conducted back in 2016, found that almost a quarter of all UK graduates from the three previous years were working in London within six months of graduating. The report discussed the ‘brain drain’ (where young people leave the areas they’re from for more prosperous capital cities) and its negative economic impact on more regional areas. As a recent op-ed by journalist Rachel Connolly noted in the Guardian, there is an emotional and cultural impact to this too, on social ties and communities. “The neoliberal agenda pursued for the past few decades, in which people are encouraged to maximise their usefulness to private companies and property developers by moving to wherever their skills might be most lucratively deployed, has proven itself to be incompatible with forming or maintaining communities,” Connolly writes. “This could be a chance to reset.”

Also noted is the severe impact on young people actually from London – activists involved in the recent Save Nour campaign in Brixton highlighted rapidly encroaching gentrification and its effect on their local community. “London is being hollowed out; a city, as well as a generation, in constant flux,” Connolly adds.