£483.60: our average weekly spend as Britain stays in the grip of a severe financial squeeze

The downturn has hit Government spending – and now it’s hitting ours, too. Ben Chu analyses the latest official statistics

Britain remains in the grip of a severe financial squeeze and the hard times are having a profoundly uneven impact on households across the land, the latest survey of spending by the Office for National Statistics suggested today.

The average weekly household expenditure was £483.60 in 2011, a £10 increase on 2010. But inflation over the year was 4.8%. So adjusted for inflation the average UK household spend actually fell by £14.60. Indeed, this is the sixth straight year that household spending has been fallen. In 2006 the average household was spending £49 more every week.

The latest figures should be handled with care. There are around 26.4 million households in the UK and they vary widely in size. Twenty nine per cent were single person. Thirty five per cent had two members. Sixteen per cent had three people. And a fifth had four or more people in them. Yet the figures broadly tell story of unavoidable expense and declining living standards.

The biggest category of expenditure, at £65.70 a week, was “transport”. Just over half of this was personal transport, meaning the costs of running a car. And most of the rise here was due to the impact of higher petrol prices as global oil prices soared. The third largest category is “housing, fuel and power”. This excludes mortgage cost, but covers rents, which have risen sharply. Also in this basket are electricity and gas bills, which everyone knows have been rising as energy firms have hiked their bills.

Groceries, the fourth largest category, are the quintessential unavoidable expense. Here, meat is the biggest cost. The figures also confirm the enduring dominance of the big supermarket chains, with just over 80 per cent of the average weekly £44.20 grocery bill filling the tills of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons. Spending on big-ticket items is down. Audio-visual equipment and furniture spending has fallen. Clothing and footwear also declined, reflecting tough conditions on the High Street.

But what about fun? The second biggest category of expenditure is “recreation and culture”, which absorbed £63.90 of the average weekly budget. This covers football matches, satellite rental, TV licences, gambling and package holidays. Expenditure on cinema tickets rose, suggesting that austerity feeds an appetite for escapism.

The latest survey also showed a divided nation. The poorest 10 per cent of households groups spent an average of £177 a week, the richest ten per cent £1,010. The poorest spent a higher proportion of their income on essentials. Housing costs, petrol and energy bills accounted for 23 per cent of their weekly budgets. Food and drink was a 16 per cent share. Yet the richest ten per cent spent just 8 per cent on both sets of essentials.

There was a glaring regional divide too. The average weekly spend in London was £574.90 per week and £539.30 in the South East. People in the capital thus had 44 per cent more to spend than residents of Wales, where the average weekly budget was just £398.20. Londoners’ weekly outgoings were 50 per cent higher than those people in the North East, who had £384.20 to spend in a week.

That divergence has a lot to do with the fact that unemployment is catastrophic for a household’s spending power. The figures showed that average households in which the senior member was without a job spent £264.90 per week, compared with £593.60 where the senior member in work.

The figures show an age divide. Households where the senior member was aged between 30 and 49 spent £580.20 a week. Where the oldest person was aged 75 or over, the household spent only £272.60 (although elderly tend to live in smaller households).

Finally, the data shows a widening digital divide. Around 41 per cent of households in the lowest income group had internet access at home, rising to 99 per cent of the highest income households.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Front End Web Developer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Back End Web Developer

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

The Jenrick Group: Electrical Maintenance Engineer

£36500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Electrical Maintenan...

The Jenrick Group: Multi Skilled Maintenance Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Multi Skill...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'