“British households have had to tighten their belts in response to the tightest squeeze on living standards in a generation – with spending on food, transport and leisure activities all falling.
“At the same time the cost of things that families can’t control, like rent and fuel bills, continue to rise and put ever more pressure on household budgets.
“Energy companies know that families can’t do without heating, particularly if this winter proves to be as cold as the last two, yet they keep putting up their prices as living standards come under increasing pressure.
“That’s why we need urgent action to reform the energy market and bring bills down. So far, the big six energy companies have been allowed to get off scot-free by the government.”
The ONS figures show that housing (rent costs less housing benefit and other subsidies), fuel and power became the highest area of household spending in 2012 at £68 per week (£23.20 of which went on fuel bills), overtaking transport (£64.10), which was previously the largest single cost to households. Spending on housing, fuel and power increased by eight per cent between 2006 and 2012, while most other household spending decreased over this period.