Wealthy say France safer than Britain


1 November 2011

WELL-OFF Brits are keen to move to France after the English riots because they see it as a safer country and they feel they will pay less tax and have lower living costs, a survey has found.

According to our research, they have a point when it comes to crime – statistics suggest France is safer – however, they are deluding themselves if they think they will pay less tax.

Coming as a study by price comparison website uSwitch.com put France top and Britain bottom in Europe for quality of life, the Lloyds-
TSB bank survey of people with more than £250,000 in savings and investments, found 17% would like to move abroad in the next two years, up from 14% in a similar poll six months ago.

Fear of crime has shot up as a reason for this – cited by 61%, as opposed to 43% earlier.

Almost three-quarters said crime was a bigger problem in the UK than in other developed countries. Some 42% cited tax as a reason for wanting to leave and 52% the cost of living.

“Sadly it seems August’s riots, tax increases and a rising cost of living have cast a pall over life in the UK for some wealthy people,” said Nicholas Boys Smith, managing director of Lloyds TSB International Wealth. “It may re-ignite fears of a wealth drain from our economy as rich people seek pastures new.”

He added: “France is the most popular country for wealthy people who’d like to move abroad – 21%, roughly 600,000 people nationally, select it as their most likely destination.”

Of these, there were more women than men and while only 11% of those hoping to move were under 45, 64% were 55 and over.

A comparison of (England and Wales) figures from the UK Home Office with similar ones from the French Observatoire National de la Délinquance show the Britons were right to think France was safer.

We compared UK statistics for the last UK financial year (April 1, 2010 to May 31, 2011) with ones for France from June 2010 to May 2011.

In the UK total recorded crimes of violence against the person were 1,500 per 100,000 and property crime 5,287. The French equivalents were 748 and 3,436 – significant lower, even allowing for any differences in the way the countries record these kinds of crime.

European statistics body Eurostat confirmed the trend with the most recent comparisons showing in 2008 there were 5,189,995 recorded offences in the UK and 3,558,329 in France (with populations of approximately 61 million for the UK and 62 million for France by the end of that year).

Wendy Moorhouse of Nous & You, a Franco-British association for the Charente and Charente-Maritime, said her impression was of “very much less crime” compared to the UK.

“Here the occasional burglary happens, but that’s it and it’s rare,” she said.

However, she added: “I worked in London before and don’t know what it’s like in a country village in the UK.”

Earlier this year the UK Foreign Office also released statistics that revealed France was the safest place to be a Briton abroad, with the fewest calls on consular help in emergencies.

While people may be safer in France their wallets are not and taxes are not as low as those surveyed believed.

Paris and Brussels-based think tank the Institut Economique Molinari has checked the tax “take” for European countries and said that France was the third most taxed after Belgium and Hungary.

It produced an easy-to-understand comparison by calculating “tax freedom days” – the days on which the average worker stops working to pay tax and starts working for themselves. Tax freedom day in France was July 26 and May 17 in the UK.

IREF economics research institute director Nicolas Lecaissin said there was “no doubt” France was more taxed and he added that it was one reason for French people, and French businesses, relocating to the UK.

As for cost of living, it varied greatly around the country, but he admitted it was relatively low in the rural areas often favoured by Britons, especially those who have retired.

“In the south of France the cost of living is much less than Paris, but that’s like London compared to the English provinces.

“Somewhere like the Drôme you can have a beautiful house and garden for €150,000, but in Paris you don’t even get a bedsit. As for rents in Paris and London, they are higher in London but there are more benefits for accommodation there.”

The most recent studies of house purchases have shown a slight increase in the number of Britons buying property in France after a trend of decline since the economic crisis first hit.

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