Household spending falls amid downturn

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The Independent Online

UK household spending has fallen for the first time in almost a decade, the Office for National Statistics said today.

Family Spending, the annual report from the ONS, found that in 2009 the average weekly household spend was £455, down from £471 in 2008.

The drop, the first since the current system of measuring was introduced in 2001-02, coincided with the global economic slowdown.

Giles Horsfield, ONS statistician and editor of the report, said higher expenditure on some housing related costs such as rent, electricity and gas was offset by lower spending on mortgages.

He added: "It's interesting to note that expenditure fell again on clothing which took it to a record low under current methods, for the third year in a row.

"Spending also fell on household goods and package holidays, but held up on sports admissions, cinema, theatre and concerts."

The findings of the survey are compiled through detailed diaries of spending kept by 6,000 households throughout the UK.

The research showed average spending on transport was £58.40 in 2009, a fall of 8% on the previous year.

Spending on recreation and culture also fell slightly to £57.90 from £60.10 in spite of higher spending on items such as leisure classes, sports admissions, cinemas, theatres and concerts.

Housing, fuel and power spending increased to £57.30 from £53.00 in 2008.

But spending on clothing and footwear was £20.90 a week, slightly lower than the previous year and continuing a long-term fall to the lowest figures recorded for nearly a decade.

Spending on household goods and services such as furniture and appliances also hit a long-term low, falling from £30.10 in 2008 to £27.90 in 2009.

Asked at a briefing if the first fall in household spending for nearly a decade was caused by people buying less or falls in prices, Mr Horsfield said: "It is very difficult to tease the two apart because... we don't collect information on the volume of items that we spend money on, as opposed to the prices.

"But there are a few pointers - on the fuel in particular there is evidence that fuel prices went down in 2009."

Nearly three-quarters of the £52.20 average weekly spend on food and non-alcoholic drink was bought from the large supermarket chains, the research found.

Figures for the combined period 2007-2009 showed average household expenditure in the UK was £461.70 a week.

London households spent the most on average at £552.30 a week, with those in the North East spending the least at £387.20.

The higher spending in the capital was partly because of housing, fuel and power expenditure at £80.10 a week, compared with the UK national average of £54 a week.

Households in rural areas had higher overall expenditure at £500 a week compared with those in urban areas at £450.20.

Spending on transport was £75.70 in rural areas and £57 in urban areas, the figures showed.

Figures for the regions showed the South East had the second highest average weekly expenditure at £523.90 for the combined period 2007-2009, followed by the East, at £487.70, Northern Ireland at £485.80 and the South West at £474.10.

Spending was second lowest in Wales at £396.10, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber at £400.70.

In Scotland, households had an average weekly expenditure of £438.70, compared with a figure of £467.50 for households in England.