North's disposable income on up - but half UK average

Northern Ireland families have less than their British counterparts left after paying for essentials such as food
Northern Ireland families have less than their British counterparts left after paying for essentials such as food

THE disposable incomes of households in Northern Ireland are just half those in Britain.

According to the latest income tracker for supermarket chain Asda, families in the north have £97 left a week once essential items have been paid for.

But despite an eight consecutive quarter of growth in disposable income - including by more than 15 per cent in the last three months - Northern Ireland lags way behind the UK as a whole where families have a discretionary spend of £192 on average.

The report, compiled by CEBR, found not only that averages salaries in the north were lower but that households spent more on essentials.

The report said average salaries in Northern Ireland were £18,764 compared to £22,044 in the UK as a whole while the north had the highest percentage of workers on or below the minimum wage at 10 per cent.

People in the north spend £35 on petrol a week on average (compared to £24 in the UK), £61 on food, against £57 on average, and £28 on energy bills compared to £26 in the UK.

However, the state of disposable income is improving in Northern Ireland with the price of petrol down 14 per cent and food prices down 2 per cent.

CEBR managing economist Rob Harbron said: "After a difficult few years since the recession, it's encouraging to see household spending power picking up quickly in Northern Ireland. Consumer spending is helping to support the economy this year as a result.

"We are not quite out of the woods yet though as higher inflation next year, the prospect of higher interest rates and continued government cutbacks will all have their effect on family finances."

Asda's chief customer officer Barry Williams said the north, "continues to be one of the fastest growing areas for spare income".

"Traditionally, people in Northern Ireland spend more on essential items than any other region and they're benefitting in falling prices of vehicle fuel, energy bills and food - it's also reassuring to see that wage growth has recently accelerated and all of this is contributing to some of the fastest spending power growth in the UK.

"However, the impact of the financial crisis still looms with customers sticking with their savvy shopping habits and reprioritising their spending on treats and activities with their families - remaining vigilant that the economic landscape can quickly change"

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said falling store prices and Rugby World Cup promotions had helped boost retail sales in September at the fastest monthly rate since December 2013.

The ONS said the quantity bought in the retail industry is estimated to have increased by 1.9 per cent compared with August.

Year-on-year sales registered a 6.5 per cent increase.

ONS head of retail sales statistics Kate Davies said: "Falling in-store prices and promotions around the Rugby World Cup are likely to be the main factors why the quantity bought in the retail sector increased in September at the fastest monthly rate seen since December 2013."