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Birmingham calling…Londoners flee to city for better way of life

Birmingham calling…Londoners flee to city for better way of life

🕔01.Dec 2014

The much-propagated claim that the first thing graduates do when they leave Birmingham universities is move out of the city to find work, often to London, has been exposed as a myth.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that Birmingham is now the favourite destination for young people who want to get out of London, where property is quickly becoming unaffordable for all but the very wealthy.

And in a trend that would have shocked Dr Johnson, whose famous bon mot stated that when a man is tired of London he is tired of life, many young professionals do appear to be fed up with London and are returning to Birmingham, where they went to university.

In the year to June 2013, almost 60,000 people aged 30-39 left the capital, which was the highest number on record. Overall, there was a net outflow from London of 22,000 people in their 30s in an indication that the population of the UK’s largest city is beginning to decline.

Birmingham is increasingly seen as an attractive proposition, partly because of cheaper housing but also because of a lively and sophisticated arts and leisure scene which includes the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Rep and Hippodrome theatres.

Four Michelin-starred restaurants – the highest number outside of London – may also help, along with the much-acclaimed new Library of Birmingham and Brindleyplace.

House prices in London have risen by 19 per cent in the past year. The average property in the capital now costs just over £400,000 against £134,000 in Birmingham.

The arrival in 2026 of HS2 could make Birmingham an even more enticing prospect as a home base for people with jobs in London, although most property experts believe high speed rail is bound to push up house prices in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands.

Birmingham is now the favourite destination for those in their 30s fleeing the capital, having attracted 5,480 Londoners in the 12 months to June 2013. Bristol came next, followed by Manchester, Nottingham and Oxford.

One theory is that many of Birmingham’s new inhabitants are returning to the place where they once attended university to take advantage of the city centre renaissance. This would bear out the city council’s long-held view that transforming the central core and forming stronger partnerships with universities can only improve Birmingham’s image and boost inward investment and economic development.

Experts say the booming economies of the UK’s regional cities are attracting established professionals who would not have contemplated a career outside London a decade ago.

Ed Cox, director of the IPPR North think tank, told the Observer newspaper: “Young people may be initially attracted by jobs in the capital, but then they recognise that if they want to move on and get on to the housing ladder, there are opportunities in other cities. We are starting to see the benefits of the recovery, particularly for higher-skilled jobs that are being created in cities outside London.”

According to the Guardian, Birmingham’s emergence as “the favourite city for those tired of London may surprise many”. The paper adds, in something of a back handed compliment, “long derided as an unfashionable, ugly city, Birmingham has been transformed and last year attracted record levels of foreign business investment”.

Neil Rami, chief executive of Marketing Birmingham, told the Observer: “We are tearing down the concrete of the 60s, transforming the city centre and dramatically improving transport links. The region is already a global hub for advanced manufacturing, but exciting companies in sectors like digital technology and e-commerce are springing up all the time.”

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