Pay gap widest in wealthiest parts of country, says ONS

The pay gap between the richest and poorest is widest in the wealthiest parts of the UK, official research showed today.

London had the highest levels of income of any region, the Office for National Statistics said. However, the capital had the highest proportion of individuals in both the highest and lowest 20 per cent income group after taking account of housing costs in the 2003/04 financial year.

The report revealed a similar pattern with the gender pay gap. The earnings divide between the sexes was wider in affluent south-east England than in poorer areas such as Northern Ireland.

In London, men earn £790 and women £567 on average, creating a gap of £223. In Northern Ireland, the gap was just £85 and in the North-east £105.

The findings were published in the latest edition of Regional Trends, an ONS report that paints a snapshot picture of British households.

The report confirmed a North-South divide in house prices but showed that the disparities were even greater within regions.

While the gap between the average price in the north-west and north-east of England was just £9,000, there was a huge range within the north-west region.

House prices in Macclesfield, a favoured spot for Premiership footballers and pop stars, were more than £230,000 - two and a half times the average in Blackburn, which was affected by racial tension, at £85,000 in 2004.

London has the most expensive average house price (£275,000), followed by the South- east (£228,000). Outside these two regions, average property prices were less than £200,000 in the rest of the UK.

Total household expenditure per person was highest in the South-east at £204 per week, with London £10 below this.

The largest single item in most areas was transport, accounting for 13 to 16 per cent of households' budgets, ranging from £47 to more than £73 per week. Wales, the North-east and North-west spent a further 15 per cent of the weekly budget on recreation and culture, amounting to more than £50 per week in each case.

All regions, with the exception of London, spent more on recreation and culture than they did on housing. Housing costs in London were far higher than elsewhere, with households spending £20 per week above the national average.

Air travel has increased substantially over the past few years. The largest increase has been at Stansted airport where it has quadrupled between 1998 and 2004 to more than 17 million scheduled international passengers per year.