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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 12:03 GMT
Is Britain too expensive?
Britain is one of the most expensive places to live in Europe.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
The Office for National Statistics, in a survey, says that Britain has become the fourth most expensive country.
Only consumers in Denmark, Sweden and Finland have less purchasing power.
Has life in the UK become too expensive? Can you buy more for your money abroad? If you have visited Britain, did you find it more expensive?
Dr John Insley, Germany
Too expensive for the standard of living it offers the majority, yes. The UK needs a major economic overhaul. My hope for the future is that a centralised European government will do a better job of running the place than the sad schoolboy mob that's been in charge for the last few decades.
Perhaps more interesting is the way this story has been spun as about the UK being expensive compared to most EU countries. This isn't about the EU at all. Many countries have lower prices than the UK. The US is the important case to look at. Where we do so we see lower taxes and a much higher standing of living and better cleaner more efficient services.
I have lived in New York for the past five years after living in London for the same amount of time. Salaries are higher here. Cost of living apart from property is lower. Taxes are lower here. Overall, I have more expendable income and a lot more and better quality things to spend it on.
Expensive? I pay 50 per cent of my £16,500 salary on rent and bills and I have a cheap rent by local standards. In order to buy a house I need to earn 7 to 8 times as much. I get to eat out twice
a month if lucky. In 15 years of working I have never been able to afford a foreign holiday or a car. I am totally disillusioned with life in England and am looking to emigrate.
I regularly visit my father in northern France. The prices are much lower than the UK but some of the hyper-markets on the northern coast have inflated prices - to trap the UK visitors!
I haven't bought a CD from a UK shop for a year. Use the net and cut the greed out. If everyone did it, they'd soon get the message.
Yes. The UK is expensive, due in no small measure to huge increases from "stealth tax".
My salary is behind inflation, and I am worse off than five years ago, but still tax allowances have been removed and council tax etc has gone up. I would not mind the cost increases so much, but I see very little accountability for where this extra money is being spent.
Jenny Best, UK
The UK used to be less expensive and we went there and bought lots of things: cars, clothes, antiques, etc. Now all this is the reverse: everyone comes to the low cost leader: the US. The Internet will have an increasingly profound effect upon this, We all will buy where it is the cheapest for the quality.
I find it staggering that a single person can earn £35k and still have to "scrape by"...what on earth do you do with your money? I am married with three children, and we bring home around £17000 between us! We live in Essex (not a cheap area) and rent our house - now we only just scrape by!
Elaine Smith, UK
Something has to be wrong when people earning a fairly decent wage can't afford a mortgage but still have to pay extortionate rents to private landlords. At 35 and earning a reasonable wage I have to live in a shared house or pay over half my wages in rent for a one bedroom flat if I want any privacy. When is a government in the UK going to start a building programme of affordable housing for its people. No wonder councils have been financially crippled with the amount of money they have paid out to private landlords in housing benefit. At least with council housing it is circulated back into the local treasury's coffers.
Many of the comments here attribute the high costs in the UK to that of taxes and duties, this is the case for goods like alcohol and cigarettes, but not really for 'luxury' goods like CDs, Computers and TVs. The high cost of these goods is down to the large monopolies that exist in the UK.
Dennis Hunt, Japan
The UK is expensive purely because people will pay high prices. Prices in Wales are less than where I used to live in the south-east of England because people here are more careful with their money and look for bargains. If everyone demands lower prices, lower prices will come.
In a word: Yes! I have lived for nearly
2 years in the UK and found most
everyday things either more
expensive or much more expensive
than what I would have paid for them
in the US. In defense of some of the
arguments people have had with the
US and its "hidden costs" in
university and health care: There are
many, many grants and scholarships
available to students for university
education. I do agree it's more
expensive but you don't need to
choose the $30,000 a year universities,
there are many cheaper ones as well
more in line with UK university
costs. If you get a decent, stable job, health
care costs are provided and
accounted for in your yearly salary
(which is substantially higher than
an equivalent job's salary in the UK).
I emigrated from the UK only three years ago. Not withstanding the recent strength of the dollar against sterling, I still find prices in the UK to be extremely expensive. After only three years away, it would now be financially impossible for me to return to live in my home country. I simply couldn't afford it.
Charles Mander, France
Britain is only expensive for public transport services, rented accommodation and eating out. After living in Germany for 4 years I have come to realize that the British are just very materialistic with their designer names and processed food - in the end it just makes us look stupid and uneducated to the rest of Europe. But I do agree that with the taxes we pay we should have a much better health service and transport system.
The main problem is that the government takes so much money "to provide for us" and then expects us to provide for ourselves. I seem to be paying tax to support asylum seekers, tax to pay benefits even though I get none, and tax for the health service even though I have private health insurance as the NHS is a shambles. I am paying towards a pension I will never receive so I need a private pension. I pay tax to pay for schools when I also need investments so my children get a meaningful education. I pay council tax for services that are subsequently means-tested so I have to pay again to actually use them. Somewhere in the equation I need money for my mortgage and little luxuries like food on the table.
Compared to the rest of Europe, we have a lower income tax burden, but consumption taxes (VAT, duty etc) are higher, making goods more expensive, I doubt overall there is that much of a difference. What makes the difference in the rest of Europe, is that once your taxes are paid, you actually see things being done with them, clean and punctual trains, new roads etc - I'm not seeing a lot of that in Britain - Where is all our money going I wonder?
The simple reason why Britain is more expensive in consumer goods is because the British accept it. If you think you consumer goods are too expensive you have to options two options; buy the product, therefore accepting the price your paying; or don't buy it. As a consumer you have a choice - use it! If you don't big business will continue to rip you off.
During the last 25
years I have lived in New Zealand, Australia and the
USA. Yes, Britain has become remarkably expensive. In the UK you pay far too much for far too little.
So expensive we've left for Italy
I was somewhat surprised to find
that a book which my wife bought on
holiday in India for £5.30 approx
was priced at £25 in the UK and that
it was printed in Bury St Edmonds.
Graham Thomson, England
Denmark, Sweden and Finland may be more expensive to live in than the UK, but they also have a much higher standard of living. Here, we pay high taxes to support a vast population of people who expect not to have to work for a living. We need to scrap unemployment benefits and replace them with compulsory waged labour. Let the spongers and car-thieves sweep the streets and so on in exchange for public money. Everyone else has to work for a living: why not these people? If they were they were kept busy, they'd have less time for criminal activities too.
Perhaps our employers simply don't pay us enough.
Having lived in the US for several years, I can
say that while the cost of living and taxes here are
lower than the UK, the cost of "hidden necessities"
such as healthcare (in the form of health insurance), and
university education fees is extraordinarily high.
If you want "free" education and healthcare, (as well as
the welfare net), you should be prepared for high taxes, but there
should be little toleration for manufacturers and retailers (such as
car retailing) who regularly extract exorbitant prices from the
Stephanie Jeram, British, living in USA
10 years' living in The Netherlands, and I am regularly amazed at the prices charged for most consumables in the UK. OK we pay basic 36% wages tax and social security combined (going up to 50% at higher income levels) but our spending power is overall greater, despite VAT equivalent of 19% from this January. UK consumers are ripped off all the time, no legislative protection allows providers to charge what they like and "Joe Public" obligingly coughs up. A typical Conservative legacy, as I know after Norman Lamont's disastrous chancellorship!
having moved here 3 years ago from Singapore, I won't deny that taxes and prices are high in the UK compared to elsewhere in Europe. yes, I can get things much cheaper outside the UK but we need to remember that the cost of living rises in relation to the standard of living, which in turn is linked with the GDP or the purchasing power among the people. And this is usually set by the income-earning group, by what they can afford with their income.
If we can afford to buy what we want here with what we earn here, it may not seem that expensive, as long as we can afford it. If we take what we earn here and look at what we can afford elsewhere, of course, we may all be many times richer than we are in the UK because of the strong pound.
As an ex-pat now back in the UK, I can honestly say that the short term profit before all else mentality here is slowly choking us. It's not about competition in the market place, but about seeing further than the next balance sheet and investing in the future. If all private car buyers stopped buying until manufacturers dropped their prices by 20%, that's exactly what would happen. Remember, capitalism is not there for the benefit of everyone, no matter what Americans tell us, it's there to ensure that the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. The only reason we tolerate it is because we all hope that we too will someday be rich.
Certain things are more expensive; certain things are cheaper. It's as simple as that. Pay for a dentist say in Holland, Germany or Scandinavia and you're looking at a short term loan to cover it. In the UK medical costs are about 20% of the cost on the continent. Any primarily resource-based cost outside the UK is far higher than in the UK.
OK. Conceded, purchasing manufactured or produced goods is dearer but any private sector service on the continent is massively more expensive than the UK.
I travel all over Europe throughout the year in my profession. People in the UK seem to spend money more readily, more often than any other place in Europe.
Most Europeans seem to spend Monday to Friday indoors passing their time in low/no cost activities.
Is this the life you seek?
I find the cost of living here is becoming a joke, from the cost of property to the price of a CD, how can it be justified?
We seem to be at the mercy of greedy retailers, insurance, finance, motor and transport companies. Can someone explain why ?
Duncan Heathfield, Finland (ex.pat. Briton)
If you buy anything advertised on TV
you pay a hefty premium. We avoid
branded goods and pay a lot less. On
the other hand, 80% fuel tax filters
down to everything, but which would
you prefer - pay your tax when you get
your money (unlike the black
economy), or when you spend it?
Whenever I go back to Germany I do a lot of shopping. The price tags are almost the same and the Mark is worth only a third of a Pound. Says it all, doesn't it?
I lived in the Midlands for 5 years. Everything in the UK is more expensive except financial services and insurance. However, if you start factoring in what Americans pay for health insurance the UK starts closing the gap!
Fiona Morales, USA - British
Alex Banks, Wales, living in Sweden
The problem is that over the last 20 years, both parties have chosen to cut income tax and view increases as political suicide. The revenue has to come from somewhere; hence sales tax increases through the back door. It is even better if they can increase these taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and petrol since they can always justify their actions (petrol is a pollutant, booze and fags are bad for you etc). Unless the British public come out and say that they would prefer either higher income tax or less central government involvement, then this trend will continue.
Britain, particularly London, is far too expensive. I have just got back from Australia
where the quality of life is much higher, not just because of the sun etc, but because it is far more affordable. If they cut the price of beer, by say half, then I'm sure that would be a good start and I wouldn't complain about anything.
Britain is expensive but the some parts of the US are expensive too. In NJ I pay over $160 a month for car insurance - for an 8 year old mini-van and a 1 year old Golf. A 3 bed semi (duplex) in my town goes for over $300,000 and the property tax for that is over $4600 a year. I pay $250 a month for gas and electricity and then I have other utilities. Also I have 2 boys aged 6 and 2 so we have to squirrel away money into a college fund, according to experts, because college fees are rising at least 4%pa so we need to save at least $500 a month. Luckily we have health and dental through an HMO but if not every doctor's visit say goodbye to $100. Cars, CDs etc are more expensive at home than here but are you paying $28,000 a year for college tuition and then living expenses on top of that?
I have a German exchange partner here now (I'm 14) and she says that she couldn't believe how expensive things were. The price for a CD (album) In Germany is around £6. In England, however, £9.99. The price of cars in my opinion is TERRIBLE. And I intend to get my car from a foreign country when I'm older.
Mark, Germany (ex UK )
Yes, the UK is expensive. Look at the levels of tax on things like petrol, beer, cigarettes! Look at the way council tax rises at 10% per year come what may. Look at VAT. When I'm in the USA I can get for a dollar what costs me 2 or 3 pounds here in the UK. We need to take a leaf out of Bush in the USA and start some serious tax-cuts and slimming-down of government.
In short, yes. In my case, take-home pay after tax, national insurance and pension contributions is 63 percent of gross. Out of what's left £100 a month goes on local tax and £250 a month on travel to work.
The concept of disposable income and savings is a joke.
Anyone who has internet access and buys DVDs, CDs, Software, perfumes, hardware etc. knows that all these items can be found in the US (and shipped to the UK) for much less than their UK price, even with shipping costs.
Anthony, Switzerland (UK citizen)
As an ex-pat living in the USA I can honestly say that Britain has been too expensive for years. This is nothing new. I would dearly love to come back home to live but I couldn't possibly have anything close to the lifestyle I have here in the US. It's not just the price of petrol which is outrageous in Britain, it is the cost of food and other items too. There is just no way I could make it over there now unless I won the lottery.
Never had enough money to travel to Finland, Denmark or Sweden, so I wouldn't know. What are they comparing, the cost of living, or the rate of taxation? Many overseas people who I have met comment that the cost of living is more than at home (Australia for example). Is it a good excuse to join the euro?
Yes, Britain is far too expensive, mostly due to high duties and taxes on everything you buy. Especially when one has to pay taxes on taxes.
Regularly my husband visits America. He often purchases books, children's toys and clothes at half the price charged in the UK.
Britain is not too expensive if you have a job and are not on "benefit". This implies, as is normally the case, that prices go up in line with what people are prepared to pay. Since the rich-poor gap is widening and the rich buy the major amount of any given commodity, the poor get priced out of the market unless they fiddle the sytem and /or steal. This is in definite parallel with America whose steps we undoubtedly track like sheep after the "good shepherd". But this shepherd ain't so good and he doesn't know where he is going either . If you want to solve a hell of a lot of problems stop using that "excuse for a moral junkyard" across the pond as a model, think for yourself and worry about people not numbers, points on the stock market, nor yet in the popularity ratings .
25 Jan 01 | Business
Rich-poor gap widening
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