HOUSEHOLDS in the East of England are having to spend more than the national average just to keep on top of bills.

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A new report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that it is much more expensive to live in East Anglia than it is to run a household in the North East, North West, Yorkshire, East and West Midlands and the South West.

The ONS Family Spending 2012 survey of thousands of households found that the average weekly expenditure in the East over the period 2009-2011 was £497.10 compared against national monthly outgoings of £477.50.

The biggest weekly expenditure is on transport (£68.70 each week) which is £5 above the national average, followed by recreation and culture (£65.30) and then housing, fuel and power (£59.20).

Dr Wil Gibson of Suffolk ACRE, a charitable organisation aimed at improving quality of life for people living in rural communities, said he was particularly aware of the rising cost of public transport and fuel.

He said that due to the rural nature of large parts of Suffolk, even buying groceries or getting a plumber to come out for a simple job would cost more due to travel and time costs.

He said: “Fuel and power - that’s quite understandable because we have got costs going up but we also have a significant number of households in Suffolk that are not on the mains grid for gas so are heated by and cook with oil.”

He also said that many properties across Suffolk, because of their age, were not well insulated and therefore often more expensive to heat and maintain.

He added: “The figures show that the emphasis is on putting petrol in the car, heating the home and buying household goods - the costs are passed on and are increasing.

“We have people, even in what you would consider a decent income for retirement, who are still having difficulty budgeting because the heating costs are so high.

“The spending on recreational activities surprised me - I wonder if, as in the depression in the 1930s, a lot more people are going to the movies? Every now and then you need a treat and a release because the economic news isn’t getting any better - it’s fairly stagnant and has been for three years.”

As well as giving a three year average, the report also breaks down the nation’s average household spending year-by-year.

Households typically spent £10 a week more on their regular outgoings in 2011 compared with 2010.

The report shows how people have cut back their spending on new cars, clothing and furniture as costs for other “vital” outgoings such as rent and household fuels have increased.

Giles Horsfield, editor of the ONS report, said: “The figures reflect the increase in the price of petrol and diesel in 2011. For a lot of households, that kind of expenditure is considered essential.

“There was increased spending on some items which people considered vital and spending went down in areas where people felt they had a bit of discretion.”

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