By Francesca James

Family Spending, the annual report from ONS on household expenditure in the UK, found that in 2011, average UK weekly expenditure rose to £483.60, an increase of £10.00 on the level recorded for 2010. The 2011 average expenditure is the highest recorded by Family Spending.

Spending was highest on the transport costs category at £65.70 per week, up 80p from the previous year. Over half of all transport (£36.40) was on running costs, which rose by £3.10 (an increase of nine per cent, following last year’s 14 per cent increase). Most of the increase in running costs was due to spending on fuel, as petrol, diesel and other motor oils increased by £3.30. Higher expenditure on personal transport was also reflected in vehicle insurance (£9.40 in 2011 compared with £8.00 in 2010). On average, household expenditure was more than twice as much on second-hand cars (£12.90) as new cars (£5.50). Unlike most types of transport expenditure, spending on new cars decreased in 2011, from £6.50 per week in 2010.

The second highest expenditure category was recreation and culture (£63.90 per week). There was a small decrease in expenditure on audio-visual equipment (including computers) averaging £6.30 per week in 2011 compared with £7.20 in 2010. Spending on many recreation items remained fairly constant, including games and toys (£2.20) and garden equipment (£2.60). Spending on newspapers, books and stationery was similar in 2011 at £5.70 per week. However, there was a small increase in spending on recreational services, including cinema tickets, leisure classes and admission to sporting events, from £17.80 to £19.80. A weekly average of £4.00 was also spent on pets and pet food. Average expenditure levels in the third highest category: housing, fuel and power increased to £63.30 in 2011 from £60.40 in 2010. This was partly due to an increase in maintenance and repair of dwellings, which rose by £1.00 to £7.70. Gross rent rose by 70p in 2011, to £40.60. Average expenditure on electricity, gas and other fuels was £22.10 per week, an increase of 70p.

Weekly household expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks increased from £53.20 in 2010 to £54.80 in 2011. However, the amounts spent on fresh fruit (£3.10) and vegetables (£4.00) were unchanged.

Some types of expenditure decreased in 2011. This was notable for household goods and services, which saw a drop of £4.10 to £27.30. This was mainly due to a decrease of £2.80 in spending on furniture, to £13.80. Expenditure on clothing and footwear was also lower in 2011 than in 2010, decreasing by £1.70 to reach an average weekly expenditure of £21.70; of this decrease, £1.00 was in clothing, which fell to £17.60. Spending on men’s outer garments decreased by 60p to £4.20, while spending on women’s outer garments fell by 70p but remained much higher than men’s at £7.70 per week. Footwear for adults decreased by 40p in 2011, men’s footwear fell by 10p to £1.30 and women’s fell by 30p to £2.10.

There were notable differences in expenditure patterns by income, seen by comparing the ten per cent of households with the lowest incomes and the ten per cent of households with the highest incomes. The lowest-income group spent a larger proportion of their total average weekly expenditure on housing, fuel and power (23 per cent), and food and non-alcoholic drinks (16 per cent), than those in the highest income group (8 per cent in both expenditure categories). Households in the highest income group spent a greater proportion on transport (16 per cent) and recreation and culture (14 per cent) than those in the lowest income group (7 and 10 per cent respectively). Differences by income were also evident for internet access, with 41 per cent of households in the lowest income group having access to the internet at home, compared with 99 per cent of the highest income households.

Overall, average household expenditure in the UK was £470.70 per week for the years 2009—11 combined. There were five regions in which expenditure over this period was higher than the UK average: expenditure was highest in London (£574.90 per week), followed by the South East (£539.30), the East (£497.10), Northern Ireland (£489.40) and the South West (£479.90). Spending was lowest among households in the North East (£384.20 per week), Wales (£398.20) and Yorkshire and the Humber (£410.10).

The high spending of London households of £574.90 was partly due to the housing, fuel and power category, £91.30 per week, compared with the UK national average of £60.30 per week. Households in rural areas had higher overall expenditure (£510.50 per week) than those in urban areas (£458.30 per week). This was reflected in expenditure on transport, where spending was highest (£77.40 in rural areas and £58.80 in urban areas), and recreation and culture (£68.80 in rural areas and £57.20 in urban areas). However, expenditure on the housing, fuel and power category was higher in urban areas (£61.30 per week) than in rural areas (£58.30 per week).