is there huge salary and cost of living difference between UK metropolitan areas and elsewhere?

I have heard that cost of living is very high and salaries are reasonably high as well in metropolitan areas of England. So how about places outside of there, like Wales, Scotland or just a rural area 100 miles from London (if such exists)? Are differences sufficiently large to encourage arbitrage-driven work outsourcing to cheaper places? Are there any other interesting non-obvious implications of whatever the situation happens to be in this respect?

A quick search hasn’t led me to any data on rural areas, but a 2003 report on relative cost of living between London, Edinburgh and Manchester states the following:

A 2004 report on consumer prices says the following:

While obviously the economy has tanked somewhat, I’d speculate that the regional variations remain. Anecdotally, London certainly hasn’t been getting cheaper, and housing costs are not plummeting.

Oh, if hard data is your thing, the Office of National Statistics has some data that might be of interest.

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/statbase/Product.asp?vlnk=15066

Take a look in particular at the income spreadsheet in the December 2010 release. Tables 8.x onwards give an indication of income variances regionally.

Crusoe, got it, thanks. So doesn’t sound like a big difference at all.

…one last post. Not directly related, but one interesting non-obvious topic that regularly rears its head is the different perceptions of regional accents in the UK and whether they are good or bad for business. It seems to be received wisdom that call centres are often sited with one eye based on whether customers ‘like’ the local accents.

Much of the actual research I can find seems spurious at best, but if you’re interested there are a few articles below.



Not in terms of food and stuff, no, but there are enormous differences in house prices. Where I live, the Bethnal Green/Shoreditch area of London, I regularly see 2-bedroom flats (small with no garden or roof terrace or garage) selling for £300k or more; in Burnley, Yorkshire, you can buy houses for £32k.

The govt has actually relocated a few of its operations outside London. The prison service HQ got sent to Wales, for example.This is about job creation as well as saving costs - in those really cheap areas there simply aren’t many jobs at all.

Nitpick - Burnley is in Lancashire, not Yorkshire.

Oh yes. :smack: I always get it mixed up with Blackburn.

Also in Lancashire :slight_smile:

Here’s some anecdotal data points for you. I live in Hampshire, in the London commuter belt. My 3-bed terraced house is worth about £200k. A pint of beer at my local ranges between £2.80 for the “specially priced” session beer and £3.95 for Staropramen. London Pride is £3.30. A few weeks ago I was in Wigan. An equivalent house would be about £125k and we rarely paid more that £2.50 for a pint.

I learned that from the Beatles!

Out of curiosity, code_grey, is there a particular reason why you’re asking about this for the UK?

The phenomenon is well-known in the US, as well. Urban areas in the US nearly always have higher costs of living than rural areas, largely driven by housing costs. Certain urban areas (e.g., New York City, San Francisco, San Jose) are particularly noteworthy for the high cost of housing.

In addition to these comparisons between large conurbations, there are also differances between urban areas and rural areas, in general urban areas tend to be cheaper to live than rural ones, and the more remote areas such as the Scottish Islands are xpensive places to live, however housing costs are often cheaper.

There are some exceptions, some rural areas are incredibly expensive, much more so than others, the Cotswolds is on case in point, it is full of second homes owned by London based workers.

In the U.S. in addition to order-of-magnitude higher housing cost differentials (I think I mean that literally, as there are certainly parts of the country where you could pay $2M for a (nice) two bedroom/2BA apt., and parts where you could pay $200k), the other big variable is state (and sometimes local) income and sales tax. Tax rates vary between zero in some states to 10% plus in some locales (that’s income tax, plus sales/use taxes that could range well above 5% on top of that).

Are there any regional/rural-urban taxation differences in the UK (other than urban people having higher income and thus paying more on a gross basis)?

Wiser heads than me can reply authoritatively, but off the top of my head, income tax, corporation tax and VAT (sales tax) are national. Local authority taxes (for local services like refuse collection) vary.

Almost all taxes such as income tax* and VAT are uniform across the whole country. Local tax, a fixed sum called the council tax and based on property valuation, varies from council to council. I don’t think that there is an obvious correlation of the level of these taxes with a rural/urban divide.

  • the Scottish Parliament has the power to vary the basic rate of income tax (+/- 3 pence in the pound) but hasn’t yet done so.

No, income tax and sales tax are both standardised across the country. The exception is property-based council tax, which is set by individual local authority and will vary from area to area.

On preview: guess several of us just got home and logged on then :slight_smile: Sod it, I’m posting anyway…

Only advantage, then, that Londoners might have over big-city Americans (who could also be expected to bear not only higher income/sales taxes, but high-ish property-ownership-based taxes).

Slightly OT I had an offer some years ago to work in London, and when I did the math on the diminished salary vs. sky-high (comparably for me at that time) cost of living, I had to turn it down just on the significant diminution it’d have made on my quality of life, commute, etc. I don’t know how mid-level let alone very junior office drones, or service industry people, afford living anywhere near central London.

Oh. Gah. Well, they’re both up North - it’s all the same to me.

James May? Is that you? :wink: