Posted on Tuesday 22 July 2014 by Ulster Business

Spare cash remains tight for northern ireland families

The piggy bank is only half full for Northern Ireland's consumers

Northern Ireland’s families have spare cash of just £82 a week to spend, less than half of that in the pockets of households in the rest of the UK.

The figures, from the latest Income Tracker from Asda, showed a slowdown in the rate of growth of so-called discretionary income – cash left after essentials such as rent and bills have been paid – of 6.9% in the second quarter of 2014 for the average household here.

That compares to a £1-a-week uplift in discretionary income for the average UK household to £171.

The report from the Walmart-owned supermarket blamed the tightening household fiscal situation in Northern Ireland on a slowdown in the labour market here as well as a tempered growth in wages.

In addition, it said a smaller increase in the income tax-free personal allowance in April 2014 compared to the previous year meant net income received less of a boost in the second quarter.

It said the tightening fiscal situation was to blame for a 0.7% decline in average house prices in Northern Ireland in the year to the end of May 2014.

Rising utility bills and an increase in the price of essential items such clothes impacted on consumers across the UK but the pressure was eased by a fall in the costs of fuel, flat food prices and a slight slide in mortgage payments.

And although described as a powerhouse of the economy, London saw only a modest growth in discretionary income of £1 a week because of average declines in pay in the finance and business services sector where the bulk of the population works.

Rob Harbron, Senior Economist, Cebr, said the remnants of the downturn have not yet disappeared.

 “Although London is often cited as the engine of the current UK recovery, the latest Asda Income Tracker regional results highlight how this economic expansion is not yet feeding through into the household finances of many, even for those living in the capital,” he said. “Households around much of the UK are facing the twin squeezes of very weak wage growth and rising inflation.”

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