Press Centre

Families £8 a week better off than a year ago

Disposable income falls month on month, as transport costs rise and unemployment remains

  • 4.9 per cent year on year increase in discretionary income of average UK household
  • Mortgage interest payments 41.4 per cent lower compared with a year earlier
  • Transport costs 6.9 per cent higher compared with a year earlier as Asda comes out top in petrol price polls
  • Northern Ireland sees the smallest year on year increase in spending power at £5
  • South West and North West regions see largest year on year rise of seven per cent.

In the run up to Christmas, the average UK family is £8 a week better off than a year ago (Nov 2008), marking the eighth consecutive month of positive year on year change.

As a result, the average UK household had £162 a week of discretionary income in November 2009, 4.9 per cent higher than a year earlier. After tax, average family incomes rose by just £6 a week relative to the same period last year, as earnings growth remained relatively weak in November 2009.

An increase in transport costs has been a key driver in the rise in annual inflation, which is now running at its highest rate since May 2009. Last week Asda led the way in bringing fuel prices back down, with the AA reporting that towns with an Asda store pay around 5p a litre less than those without.

The tracker saw some flexibility in disposable income across other regions and countries in the UK. Families in Northern Ireland saw the smallest year on year rise in disposable income with a £5.00 per week increase. The largest proportional rises occurred in the South West and the North West with families in these regions £10.00 and £9.00 a week respectively better off than in November 2008.

Families in the South East had the largest amount of disposable income overall. Spending power in London is highest, with families pocketing £246.00 a week of disposable income. This is followed closely by the South East where families have £185.00 per week to spend above and beyond their normal outgoings.

Mortgage interest payments are 41.4 per cent lower in November compared with a year earlier while the cost of utility bills continued to fall over the year. Electricity prices fell by 8.2 per cent over the year to November while gas prices sank by 5.9 per cent making it more affordable for families to heat their home this winter.

Charles Davis, an economist at Cebr who compiles the report for ASDA, said: “The latest ASDA income tracker shows that weak earnings growth and a rise in transport costs is putting downward pressure on discretionary incomes. Households are better off compared to a year ago, largely thanks to falling mortgage payments and utility bills. However, the rate of growth in discretionary income has slowed – and the VAT reversal could put more pressure on family incomes in the New Year.”

Andy Bond, ASDA President and CEO said: “Once again this year we’ve led the way in passing on those price reductions to our customers more quickly than others. As a result we are well placed to have a good Christmas at the end of what’s been a very good year for us. Our determination to be first to pass on savings at the pumps when the cost of oil falls will clearly help family incomes.

“While there are clearly challenges ahead, like the impending VAT increase, what matters most to customers is the price they pay at the till. As always, whatever the rate of VAT, or level of inflation in the market we will aim to be better value than anyone else.?

“I’m very confident about our prospects next year, despite the fact it’s going to be tougher for customers. That’s because of the tremendous progress we’ve made in the last three years to put the business back into superb shape, improve the quality of our ranges, and broaden our appeal. We’re ready to face, whatever the economy and government throw at us.”

Data from the Office of National Statistics revealed that average earnings including bonuses increased by 1.5 per cent over the three month period to October compared with the same period a year earlier. This was up slightly from the revised 1.4 per cent growth in September. Public sector earnings grew by 2.8 per cent year on year compared with 1.1 per cent growth in the private sector.

Over the three months to November, the unemployment rate remained unchanged from the three months to November at 7.9 per cent. However, while the rate of deterioration in the labour market may have eased, there is still concern that a weak first quarter of 2010 may negatively affect the labour market.

Posted in Press Centre on 21 December 2009