LONDON: Rising food, petrol, energy and tax bills have dragged Britons' disposable incomes down to their lowest level since the New Labour party swept to power in 1997, according to the latest  survey by price comparison website uSwitch.

After paying essential bills, the average UK family in 2007 enjoyed a discretionary balance of £1,425 monthly. This figure now stands at £1,210, down year-on-year by 15.1%, and the first fall in more than a decade.

Many factors – some outside the control of any single government – have brought about this situation. Topping the upward price spiral are essentials such as clothes, food, fuel and mortgages, all of which have risen by an average of 8%.

The UK government's official (if risible) inflation index shows a rise of just 4.4% which is, nonetheless, at a sixteen-year high.

Salaries are failing to keep pace, averaging +3.4% annually - a full percentage point below the Brown administration's Panglossian inflation index. While some nine million people (35% of the national workforce) will receive no pay rise this year.

The situation is further exacerbated by rising tax and national insurance [health and state pension] contributions, which between them account for over 20% of the average gross household income – the highest level in nearly two decades.

Data sourced from The Times (UK); additional content by WARC staff