Guardian Cities: how Hackney council let developers demolish the startups of "Silicon Roundabout"


My experience is, you start at Bethnal Green, and slowly move offices westwards until you end up in Farringdon.

I’m waiting for the start-ups to squeeze out the dense contingent of overly elaborate office furniture showrooms.

Not sure what is worse though, Government-sanctioned and supported ‘Silicon Roundabout’ investment, which dries out the creativity and grassroots innovation, or Hackney Council opportunistic temporary housing generation, to translate culture into short term living (in terrible housing)…

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Its a good article except for a couple of points…
1.We actually do need to build more housing - especially in London. Rents are sky high and Hackney is probably being begged to build on “brownfield” land.
2. The author is very dismissive of the “student bubble” and flats for rich foreign students. However UK universities are a very real very established industry that brings in billions of pounds of foreign cash into the British economy - and has done for years. Indeed it is one of Britains most successful exports -and like pharma banking and films one of the few where it is a world leader.

that said none of that is to dismiss his central point that if Old Street is the centre of a nascent tech industry it should be protected as such.

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There is so much wrong with this statement that it is difficult to know where to start.

But maybe this much. London, Hackney the UK is attractive to foreign students because it has a relatively decent public infrastructure, transport, health care, water, electricity, gas supply as well as phone lines. These students don’t pay council tax, don’t pay NI don’t pay income tax i.e. they don’t contribute to the maintenance of said infrastructure.

Similarly you can bet your bottom Dollar that the companies responsible for these student housing developments, which under planning law are considered as social housing (Yes £ 300 rent per week social housing) make every effort not to pay UK taxes.

Yes, there is a desperate need for housing, housing for people living and working in London, those idiots who pay council tax and income tax and fund what is left of the crumbling UK infrastructure. There is much less clear need for foreign students who rely on this infrastructure and use this infrastructure, but whose fees benefit dubious investment vehicles based in some obscure tax haven and who in no way contribute financially to the maintenance of same infrastructure.


Guardian link is giving me a 404.

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How are these students any different from UK students which have no income? Do they pay less in taxes? Are they eligible for the same services (e.g., health care, student loans, etc?)? Maybe things are different in the UK, but in the Canada and the US foreign students pay much more than local students and are eligible for almost none of the services available to local students. They are cash cows for the universities and pay market rents. If they work in the country they are subject to all of the taxes levied on all workers, even though they may not be eligible for the benefits they are ostensibly paying for.

But hey, better we should effectively subsidize low rents for startups, because they’re so local they attract locals like Cory.

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As someone else has pointed out - thats daft. All students living in halls of residence don’t pay council tax -not just foreign ones. Anyone who works foreign or homegrown students if they earn enough pays tax… but most students don’t.
Homegrown students are entitled to a subsidised higher education because their parents presumably paid tax for it. Foreign student however pay very very dearly to study here. As i said before they are a huge cash cow for the UK economy - most of that money directly subsidising the UK higher education system and the fees of other students. They also bring money from abroad 10s of thousands of pounds each an depend it here on food and stuff that they buy here.
As for the companies building the social housing not paying tax - thats a general problem problem that GASP even some internet companies maybe slightly guilty of.

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I am not disputing that foreign students pay a lot, the question is who is benefiting from that money and the point I am making is that it is not the UK revenue. As to what UK students pay most of them are likely to have parents who are paying UK tax! In addition UK students can work legally in the UK and thus are more like to also be tax payers.

The question is not how much foreign students pay (no doubt a lot), the question is where is that money going and who is benefitting. Very different question.

To my mind someone paying local taxes is as local as you can get!

No, you must be right much better to subsidise property developers based in tax havens! After all they have been driving the UK economy…

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So if the foreign students could work and pay taxes then everything would be fine!

[quote=“nojaboja, post:8, topic:25005”]
I am not disputing that foreign students pay a lot, the question is who is benefiting from that money and the point I am making is that it is not the UK revenue.
[/quote]If that’s the question, then your points about whether they pay taxes and contribute to the maintenance of infrastructure is way off-point. And foreign students pay a bundle in tuition, which benefits all taxpayers in the UK.

I imagine property and construction have contributed more to the British economy than startups have. But that’s pretty irrelevant since I don’t think anyone should be subsidized here. Startups move to places with low rent. But moving when rents are low should not be a guarantee that rents will remain low, and whining about rising rents seems pretty hypocritical since we’re well aware that startups can cause property bubbles of their own in the residential market.

Local things for local people? That sounds rather “xenophobic little Englander” to me, or at the very least “**** the rest, what about my street?”

As others have said, overseas students are massively important to the UK economy. Not necessarily the specific street on which a given student resides, and not necessarily in terms of Council tax precepts to that specific ward, but it’s ludicrous to think in those terms.

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It is far more complex than that. Yes, foreign students could be incredibly important to the UK economy if the funds they bring to the UK would benefit the UK i.e. taxed etc… Having tried to oppose one of these Student Housing Developments I know more about the company structure of these quasi academic institutions than I ever wanted to, and it is not pretty. It has very little to do with benefiting the UK economy. Unless you consider the tax paid on the meagre wages of the construction workers. We would need to get into a discussion about Education Financing here…

As to being little Englander, I have been a proud foreigner and at various places a foreign student most of my life so it doesn’t really hurt

The point is not where people come from but where they PAY TAX (that makes you a local). Living next to the CIty of London, let me tell you this distinction really matters.

Umm this appears to have dropped off the main page… Is something odd going on?

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P’bly because the linked Guardian article has been temporarily pulled.

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We are constantly hearing about how people in small towns must move to the bigger cities in order to get good jobs and tech jobs in particular. So, if you’re a startup, why not be located a bit outside the city? I don’t mean in Wales (not necessarily anyway), but just outside of London.

Lower costs - rent, housing, etc. It may be a bit more difficult to attract talent but the there are some definite benefits to considering alternative locations.

As others have pointed out, there’s a massive housing crisis in the UK at the moment so it seems a bit shortsighted on Cory’s part to slight some students so that - from my point of view - some arbitrarily located tech startups can continue with their leases.

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As opposed to the tax paid by these apparently penurious startups who typically pay themselves very little, usually fail, and can’t afford market rents? Yeah, I bet they’re paying loads of tax.

Not sure what this means, but were you paying lots of tax as a foreign student?

Or it could be that there is a very real problem that no one seems to have an interest in solving. I live in Oxford, where average house prices are 11.5 times more expensive than average earnings. In London houses are 10.3 times more than earnings. I don’t know how bad it is elsewhere in Britain, but Carlisle, the small and not particularly rich city I grew up in, looks like it is about 5 times earnings.

A reasonable mortgage is only supposed to be 3-5 times earnings. We desperately need affordable housing, not more student housing tor universities who don’t pay enough for their lecturers to live anywhere close to their workplace.


You think short-term student housing is responsible for housing prices being three times higher than you think they should be? If so, you should be happy they are adding additional housing capacity for these students. You should also be happy that these students pay so much tuition: if they got that much from all students, they probably could pay their lecturers more.

Can anyone name an actual tech startup located near the Silicon Roundabout that we might have heard of? always gets trotted out but they had their exit 7 years ago to CBS so I don’t really think that counts. All the others seem to be NuMeeja consultants or just slightly updated Ad Agencies.

Go east young man. I hear there’s plenty of brown field, almost derelict, cheap office space out beyond Stratford. And anyway the whole HoxDitch-Brick lane-Spitalfields area has sucked for some long time now. Popup factory outlets in containers? Wow. So Edgy. Such hipness.


In which Cory gets nostalgic and NIMBY.