UK cities with the fastest rising bills

Published  25 May 2023
   4 min read
  • New cost of living research turns the spotlight on wide variations in rising costs across the UK
  • London is the worst hit with household bills spiking by the equivalent of nearly £7,000 a year — while Glasgow, Cardiff and Sheffield also saw large increases in household spending
  • Although rises in energy and food costs have peaked, the full impact of interest rate rises is yet to come

London, Glasgow and Cardiff have recorded the highest spikes in monthly household outgoings across the UK, according to cost of living data from mutual life, pensions and investment provider, Royal London. Spending habits across five key areas: housing, energy, food, childcare, and pets of 4,000 UK adults, were analysed to show the extent to which outgoings have risen in the year to February, depending where in the UK you live.

Nationally, the average increase in monthly household bills stood at £441, although spending increased most in London (£559), Glasgow (£500), Cardiff (£476) and Sheffield (£442).

A sharp rise in housing costs following the Bank of England’s repeated interest rate rises was among the factors weighing on household budgets, along with higher food and energy bills.

The research found that while households in London saw a large jump in housing and energy costs, people in Glasgow reported the biggest increase in food costs. This, combined with sharply higher energy costs meant that, outside of London, Glasgow experienced the largest monthly increase in household bills.

Cities which saw below average rises in bills included Manchester (£408), Birmingham (£404), Liverpool (£398), Plymouth (£331), Bristol (£344) and Norwich (£368).

Belfast, with its relatively cheap accommodation, saw the smallest change in monthly outgoings, with bills rising by £286 a month for a typical household. Housing cost increases in the Northern Ireland capital were only around half the London figure (£69 vs £120) while the jump in food bills was 25% less (£103 vs £138). 

While food and energy prices may now have peaked, housing costs are expected to continue rising with families nearing the end of cheap fixed rate mortgages facing the biggest rises.

Sarah Pennells, Consumer Finance Specialist at Royal London, said: 

"Our research reveals just how much extra people are paying as a result of the cost of living crisis and the extent that this varies around the UK. Food and energy prices are expected to ease in the months ahead, however, prices for many staples have already risen sharply, so even if inflation falls, many people will struggle to make their budget stretch.

"People told us that cutting back on takeaways and meals out, buying cheaper food and turning down the heating were the most effective ways of saving money. However, we know that many have already made these cutbacks and, with wages not keeping pace with inflation, are finding it increasingly hard to make their money last.

"If you are struggling to pay your bills, contact the company you owe money to, whether that’s an energy provider or your mortgage lender. If you owe money to several companies or you’d like some help with your money, get in touch with a debt advice charity, which can give you free advice, or the government-backed impartial MoneyHelper organisation."

Tips to help you reduce your spending during the cost of living crisis:

  1. Find out where your money’s going

    Start by finding out where your money’s being spent. It sounds obvious, but we may not realise exactly how much we’re spending each month – and what we’re spending it on – until it’s laid out in front of us.

    Get your last three bank statements and credit card bills (or check online) and spend some time going through them, highlighting any areas where you think you’re spending money unnecessarily or spending too much. This could be on anything from a top of the range broadband package that you don’t need, to a mobile phone contract where you’re paying for data you don’t use.

    Every month money is wasted on unused subscriptions, with gym memberships being a common example.

  2. Reduce your food bills, if you can

    Grocery bills can make up a big proportion of your household spending, so it makes sense to look for savings. Plan your meals for the next few days and write down your shopping list – this will help you avoid buying unnecessary items. Consider changing to a cheaper supermarket, or to different brands if you prefer a particular supermarket.

  3. See if you can reduce your Council Tax bill

    Depending on your circumstances and who is living with you, you may qualify for a council tax discount. For example, you can get a 25% discount if you’re the only adult living in the property (or if the other adult is, for example, a full-time student or has severe dementia). Find out what discounts are offered by your local council at GOV.UK.

    People in Northern Ireland pay rates rather than Council Tax and different rules apply. 

  4. Check if you’re entitled to state benefits

    Billions of pounds of state benefits go unclaimed each year, and you could be missing out. The national charity Turn2us has a free and confidential benefits calculator on its website (https://benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/), which can help you work out which means-tested benefits you’re entitled to. It also has a grant search tool (https://grants-search.turn2us.org.uk/) for information on grants you may be able to apply for.

  5. Don’t bury your head in the sand, ask for help if you’re struggling with your energy bills

    Over two thirds (68%) of UK adults haven’t approached anyone for help with the cost of living crisis. If you’re finding it hard to pay your energy bills, contact your energy provider to discuss ways you can pay them. They should agree a payment plan with you, which takes into account your current income and what you owe. Contact Citizens Advice if you can’t agree a plan.

  6. Get help with unmanageable debts

    If you are struggling to pay for the essentials, you are using one credit card to pay off another, or your debts are causing you worry, then contact a debt advice charity, such as StepChange or National Debtline. They will be able to give you help with your debts, free of charge.

For further information please contact:

Gary O’Shea, Powerscourt Group

Neil Cameron, PR Manager, Royal London

Notes to editor

Royal London commissioned a survey by Opinium between 27 February and 6 March 2023, with a sample of 4,000 nationally representative UK adults. This is the third wave of cost of living research Royal London has carried out (earlier waves were conducted in February and August 2022).

About Royal London

Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, and in the top 30 mutuals globally, with assets under management of £162 billion, 8.6 million policies in force and over 4,200 employees. Figures quoted are as at 31 December 2023. Learn more at royallondon.com.