London's grand plans go the same way as the nanny ... out

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 October, 2008, 12:00am


Apparently the most at-risk job in London at the moment is not that of the banker, nor the estate agent. It's the professional nanny; that fabled, time-honoured symbol of well-off, respectable middle-class London.

With slashed bonuses and job losses in the city, the modern Mary Poppins is more surplus to requirements than a subprime mortgage seller, destined to go when the 'bonus belt' of west, southwest and central London tightens.

The Evening Standard reports that dozens of highly paid nannies have been laid off. Kate Barker, head of Abbeville Nannies, told the paper: 'If both parents are working, and one loses their job, the first thing to go is the nanny.' She adds: 'There'll be lots more dads in the park from now on.'

It makes sense. Nannies in the southwest nappy valley of Clapham and Wandsworth command minimum salaries of GBP35,000 (HK$494,261) a year.

Columnist Lucy Porter, at the Standard, apparently has friends who have already let the nanny go and taken on domestic duties. Her pals, she says, will find it hard to adjust, especially bankers' wives.

To prove it, she lists the average outgoing expenses of a top banker's wife: the mortgage on the GBP5 million to GBP10 million Chelsea home; the GBP100,000 worth of holidays with kids; the annual GBP50,000 interior decoration budget; the GBP4,000 on facials and massages; the GBP50,000 on charity dinners; GBP30,000 on clothes and the same on gardeners and housekeepers.

Porter tries to engender sympathy for the wives, many of whom spent their husband's bonus before it was even calculated, let alone paid, she says.

'When a teacher or nurse loses her job everyone feels sympathy, but to a banker's wife now worrying how to pay the mortgage, it hurts just as much.'

Other Standard journalists with their heads not in the clouds warn that London will have to tighten its belt. The paper's star Rottweiler, Andrew Gilligan, says the era of big-spending City Hall is over. Watch out, Mayor Boris Johnson! Boris, he says, will have to cut, cut, cut.

'Huge numbers of things that have governed London politics for eight years are going to be destroyed.'

Plans the city's rulers were debating as recently as May are seriously at risk or dead, he adds.

Boris' talk of building an airport out east by the Thames has been dismissed as pie in the sky given news that the Olympic village and the media centre are having trouble raising funds.

Home-building has all but stopped, especially the 50 per cent quota of affordable homes and social housing promised on each new development. Some big firms are on the verge of bankruptcy, Gilligan says, not giving names.

Ironically, the Conservative, free-market mayor may have to bridge the gap by building them himself.

The towers promised for the city are mostly on hold, too, making the debate about a changing skyline academic. London is now awash with office space.

The debate over crime will change, too, says Gilligan.

The crime rate will rise, not least as the still 'comparatively rare' crime against the person - serious assault, mugging, etc - gives way to the more common crime against property.

There's trouble for public transport, too. Not least the buses, one of the more noted recent improvements. Though London has a seventh of Britain's population, it has two-thirds of the national bus subsidy. The government may recoil from spending more.

The Cross-River Tram project, which will send trolleybuses from Peckham, in the south, to Camden in the north, is perhaps the most likely first major public casualty. Good thing, says Gilligan: best save our energy for the GBP14 billion Crossrail, London's most important infrastructure project.