Britons spend less on leisure as rents climb

Chris Papadopoullos
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BRITISH households are spending less on eating out, hotels, alcohol and smoking, according to the annual official survey of family budgets released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The survey also reveals how rent, gas and electricity are taking up a larger proportion of spending.

Total average spending by families in 2013 was £517.30 a week, an increase from £501 the year before, the ONS said. But this was substantially below the 2006 peak of £539.80, and is now lower than average spending at the end of the 1990s. All figures are adjusted for inflation.

Although spending rose last year compared with the previous year, much of the increase was taken up by rent payments as the property boom ate into household expenditure, the ONS said.

The ONS said 35 per cent of households were renting last year, compared with 29 per cent in 2006. The average rent was £92.10 a week, after taking account of housing benefit.

Food costs fell slightly to £58.80 a week, and are now down by a tenth in real terms over the past decade. Spending on alcohol and cigarettes has plunged from £18.20 a week at the start of the century to £12 in 2013.

As rising housing costs exposed the consequences of failing to get on the property ladder, the ONS also found disparities between the lowest and highest earners – with the richest 10 per cent spending three times as much on food as the bottom 10 per cent.

Despite London having the highest earners, for the first time the south east eclipsed the capital as the region with the biggest spenders – with £585.40 average weekly spend versus £579.60. The lowest spending was in north east England (£424.60), York­shire and Humber (£431.10) and Wales (£438.80).

Overall expenditure on restaurants and hotels fell to £40.40 a week, compared with £48.50 in 2001, while spending on recreation and culture rose in the same period from £53.80 to £63.90 – a figure including spending on items such as Sky and Netflix as well as cinema and theatre.

There was a surge in car-related spending.

The ONS said the rise was largely due to households buying new cars again after years of deferring a purchase during the recession.