Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Forthcoming budget will do little to loosen the purse strings for the ordinary family

We in Northern Ireland are still waiting for Executive Ministers to agree a Budget so that we can come to terms with the comprehensive spending review announced last month.

But if a UK consumer confidence index is anything to go on, the review is unlikely to induce us to open our wallets.

UK consumer confidence fell in November in the wake of the review. Unsurprisingly, the biggest fall was in expectations for people's finances in the future - although confidence in the overall economy was also in short supply.

The major purchases index, in which people indicate how likely they are to make 'big ticket' buys, fell from minus 15 to minus 17, although this was better than the minus 19 it stood at in November 2009

This lack of confidence seems to be reflected in Family Spending, an annual report from the Office for National Statistics. The weekly household spend in 2009 was £455, down from £471 in 2008. Higher spending on some costs was offset by lower mortgage spending, thanks to low interest rates.

In a worrying sign for how willing people are to treat themselves, spending on clothing was down for the third year in a row.

But the need to keep up mild diversions reflected in steady spending on sports admissions, cinema, theatre and concerts.

Overall, it was the first time the ONS recorded a fall in weekly household spending.The figures don't reflect why spending fell, or whether it was down to people buying cheaper items or fewer items. Even in previous recessions, weekly home spends have steadily risen and the findings concur with the Bank of England's view that folk are saving instead of spending. It's unlikely that habit will change any time soon.

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