Opinion: Council tax and rail fare rises mean the affordability gap between London and the Home Counties is closing for the first time in years

 
Toby Whittome
Prudential RideLondon Surrey Classic
The splendour of Surrey (Source: Getty)

Buyers are often surprised when they discover how much more affordable the council taxes in London are in comparison to what they are paying to live within commuting distance of the Capital. Last month saw these costs increase across the country.

On top of this, rail fare rises continue to outstrip wage growth, so the cost of living has never been more at the forefront of the nation’s mind. As such, many savvy home movers will be looking to locations where they can make both monthly savings and benefit from future house price growth.

Surrey has long been considered the highly-prized heartland of the commuter belt; in previous years many have left the capital in favour of its green surroundings, the lure of a larger property and the welcome prospect of lower outgoings. However, with Surrey residents seeing substantial rises to council tax bills from April 2018, the affordability gap between London and this affluent county is closing for the first time in years.

We investigated this shrinking affordability gap by analysing the average cost of council tax and annual rail fares across the local authority areas that pay the highest council tax in Surrey.

This was compared against the average council tax and commuting costs of residents in the London Borough of Wandsworth. Surprisingly, we found that those choosing to relocate to the London Borough of Wandsworth, instead of commuting into London each day from Surrey, could reduce their annual outgoings for council tax and train travel by up to 73 per cent.

With Surrey residents seeing substantial rises to council tax bills from April 2018, the affordability gap between London and this affluent county is closing for the first time in years

Residents considering a move to Surrey Heath, in particular, could make annual savings of over £4,000 by relocating to the London Borough of Wandsworth, whilst those looking at Woking could save £3,807 each year on their council tax and commuting costs.

So, “why Wandsworth?”, I hear you ask. The London Borough of Wandsworth provides a good ‘Surrey alternative’ for these buyers; with its leafy surroundings and villagey pockets such as Putney and Earlsfield, it offers many of the frequently-requested lifestyle qualities that the Prime Home County of Surrey undoubtedly continues to provide, albeit at a price on the rise.

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Lower council taxes aren’t the only perk of staying in London; residents might also enjoy access to better services provided by their council, such as more frequent waste collection and better street lighting. It is therefore even more surprising that these country homes can be liable for a council tax bill twice the size of the equivalent sized home in the capital.

As the price gap between Surrey and some locations within London’s property market closes, we could see fewer professionals and young families moving from the capital as they contemplate whether the lure of Surrey is as strong today. Train fares and council tax are just a few examples of the additional costs these residents will pay to live outside of London; parking at train stations and petrol are also considerations.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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