Belfast Telegraph

Belfast ranked as UK's cheapest city - but Eamonn Holmes is not convinced

By Leslie Houston

Belfast may be the cheapest city to live in the UK but you’d be hard pressed to find evidence of it, according to Eamonn Holmes.

The city’s rating as the UK’s least expensive city was awarded by a world survey on the cost of living, but the TV presenter says that although he’d rather live here than in London, residents here are no longer “quids in” like we were in the past.

Belfast has been ranked much cheaper than the most expensive UK city — London — with Aberdeen, Glasgow and Birmingham following in order, in the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey compiled by investment consultants Mercer.

On a global scale, Belfast ranks 178th in a survey of 214 cities which placed Luanda, in Angola, as the world’s most expensive city.

“Most UK cities have moved up the list following the loss in value of the US dollar against the British pound, the rise in cost of rental accommodation and increased prices on goods and services following the VAT increase,” said Catherine Gervais, a global mobility expert at Mercer.

“Despite this, London has been overtaken and pushed down the list, reflecting even higher price increases in the cities ranking above it.”

Dublin has been ranked 58th this year, compared to 42nd in the 2010 survey.

The survey covers 214 cities and measures the comparative cost |of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

At 32nd, New York is the most expensive city in the United States with Toronto (59th) overtaking Vancouver (65th) to become the most expensive Canadian city in the ranking.

Despite the news of our status as the UK’s best value for money, Eamonn was confused.

Speaking from London he said: “I don’t understand how they came to that, when we pay more for our petrol, more for our electricity and more for other things and I don’t see any difference when buying a car.

“London is a complete rip-off. I wouldn’t live here if it wasn’t for work and I wouldn’t choose to live here.

“I would chose to live in Belfast, but I haven’t noticed that Belfast is any cheaper than anywhere else in the UK,” he said.

He insisted that despite the high costs of living in Belfast, he still loves it and would hate to see the place lose the uniqueness which sets it apart from other UK cities.

“Belfast is a great city. We love it and when my wife Ruth comes over she always goes to Tesco and can’t believe how friendly everyone is.

“But it comes naturally to us all and that’s what I love about it — it’s ease of moving about; it’s the proximity of the city centre to the suburbs and the friendliness of |the people... and our incredibly good weather,” he quipped.

Former sporting star Dame Mary Peters said she “wouldn’t chose anywhere else in the world” to live.

“I don’t have any family left here. They are all in Australia so I’ve no reason to stay, but it’s my home and I love it and I love the people and the countryside and everything about it,” she said.

The Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medal winner stressed: “I have travelled the world with my sport but I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

Saying that, however, she said the cost of living in Belfast — like much of the world during times of recession — is tough enough in current times.

It’s the cost of heating her home that stretches her finances most these days.

“My bugbear is the cost of gas heating. I find it the most expensive thing and they say it’s going up again, but you can’t live without it in the winter.”

Food prices here don’t compare very favourably either, with cities like Sydney, where she travels to visit family, proving much cheaper. “I don’t have much experience of living in other places but in Sydney the food is much more reasonably priced,” she said.

“But you cut your cloth for what you have and you buy what you need and don’t buy what you can’t afford.

“I’m a pensioner now so I have to be careful,” Dame Mary added.

Radio DJ Pete Snodden lives in Bangor but is in Belfast nearly every day. “I have to say I’m very proud of Belfast and what it is,” he said. “I went to school in Belfast and when you look at how it has developed in the last 10 to 15 years you just wonder what the next few years have in store for us.

“The city is constantly evolving and has such a brilliant atmosphere and we are becoming so much more cosmopolitan — though we still have a long way to go — and the amenities in the city centre are so great. We have all the brands and names you’d find anywhere else.”

He admits the expense of eating out in restaurants and drinking in Belfast is more costly than in other towns and villages in Northern Ireland: “When I’m in London or Liverpool or Glasgow, I think, wow, that meal cost me £80 or £90 — in Belfast it would only be about £50 or £60,” he said.

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