BRITAIN’S poorest households are spending nearly half of their income on food and housing while the rich spend four times more on entertainment, official figures revealed yesterday.
The disparities of austerity Britain were laid bare as this year’s figures on family spending were disclosed by the Office for National Statistics.
While the average weekly spend of £531 was again up on previous years, the disposable income of the richest fifth of Britons is now six times higher than the bottom 20 per cent.
The Resolution Foundation’s chief economist Matthew Whittaker argued that it was “surprising” that despite the wide gap between Britain’s rich and poor, “the top fifth only spend a little over three times as much as the bottom fifth.”
He said: “This reflects the unavoidable and sizeable costs associated with housing and food that all households face.
“As a result, poorer households spend a much higher share of their income overall and allocate far more of their spending to these essentials.”
A further worrying figure showed that under-30s across the country spend almost one third of their salaries on accommodation.
For older age groups the slice drops to less than 20 per cent.
Mr Whittaker said: “These spending patterns show that for many low- to middle-[income] households, as well as young people, the cost of housing is as big a driver of living standards as wages.
“Disproportionate increases in the costs of many essentials over the last decade or so have meant lower-income households facing higher inflation levels than the headline rate, compounding the squeeze on their incomes.”
Average spending for households in London and the south of England in the years between 2012 and 2014 was far higher than all other parts of Britain.
The TUC warned that even the higher spending average should not be happily relied on.
General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “While it is good that consumer confidence is up, let’s not pretend that everything is rosy.
“Too much household spending is being fuelled by credit-card debt, which is growing at its fastest rate in nearly a decade.
“We need a wages-led recovery, not a rerun of the events that led to the last financial crash.
“People racking up unsecured debt is not the sign of a healthy economy.”