More money in Yorkshire wallets

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the average Yorkshire family is five pounds a week better off than they were a year ago, new figures suggest.

Disposable income in the region was up 3.6 per cent in March to £149 per week, rising at a faster rate than London although the capital remains well ahead overall at £231.

The data from Yorkshire supermarket chain Asda is supported by forecasts that pay will soon be rising faster than the retail prices index (RPI) - the wider measure of inflation that includes housing costs.

Every piece of evidence that incomes are rising faster than prices puts further pressure on Ed Miliband who has put the cost of living at the centre of Labour’s election strategy.

It is the six month in a row that Asda’s ‘income tracker’ has registered a rise in discretionary incomes in Yorkshire.

Asda chief executive AndyClarke said: “Spending power is growing and unemployment is falling.

“Importantly though, these factors are combined with a fall in the price of petrol and food inflation, meaning that families have more breathing space when balancing the budget.”

The 3.6 per cent increase is the biggest rise registered by Asda since September 2012.

Rob Harbron, senior economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said: “It is encouraging to see a further increase in household spending power, as the Asda Income Tracker saw its fastest growth rate since late 2012.”

“A slowdown in inflation coupled with accelerating wage growth is helping to raise the average household spending power.

“Moreover, robust economic growth is expected to continue, which means it is likely that discretionary incomes will continue to rise over the coming months.”

In a separate piece of research, pay analysts IDS said median awards for the first quarter of the year were 2.5 per cent, in line with RPI inflation, the most commonly used measure of the cost of living for pay-setting purposes.

A study of more than 100 settlements, covering 224,000 workers, showed that three out of five were between two and 2.9 per cent, a third were over three per cent and only a handful involved a wage freeze.

The last time median pay rises were ahead of RPI inflation was the end of 2009.

Ken Mulkearn, of IDS, said: “As we move into the prime period for annual pay reviews, settlement levels are mostly stable. The main factor in the comparison with the cost of living is the fall in inflation, rather than any rapid acceleration in pay growth.

“However, stronger economic growth may add to upward pressures, and the fact that the national minimum wage is set to rise by three per cent will likely have an influence.

“In any case, it looks like pay could soon be ahead of inflation for the first time in many years.”

Official figures last week showed average earnings rising slightly higher than he headline consumer prices index measure of inflation - which is lower than the RPI rate - although that included bonuses.

Labour has insisted that the improving picture has not dented its argument on the cost of living as overall living standards have yet to catch up.

The party also argues that the benefits of the recovery are only being felt by a small section of society.

While each piece of positive news is welcomed by the Conservatives, they too are cautious as they will be making the argument at the next election that only they can secure the recovery.