Excerpted from the United Kingdom Career Guide
Cost of Living
The high cost of living is a hot topic in the United Kingdom (UK), as inflation of common household goods has see-sawed first higher, then lower over the past year. The latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) from Britain’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) finds inflation currently stands at 2.5 percent, down a full point from the 3.5 percent CPI level of six months ago. To put this in perspective, the current price rate hike is still above the Bank of England’s 2.0 percent target inflation rate. However the UK’s economy has come a long way from late last year, when the CPI reached 5.2 percent.
Economic uncertainty continues to trouble the UK, as Europe struggles to contain the financial crisis threatening to topple the European Union (EU). Despite the economic uncertainty, the most encouraging news for residents and expats living in the UK is that the country ranks relatively favorably in cost of living as compared to many major cities worldwide.
House prices in the UK are suffering from a long slide, falling to an average price of around 159,500 GPB, down by 1.4 percent over the last year. This is down 20 percent from the high point in 2007, when the average sales price was close to 200,000 GBP. Many economists don’t feel the bottom has yet been found in the UK housing market, fearing another 3 percent decline over the next year before a turnaround is expected. At the same time, adjustable rate mortgages are climbing higher, reaching 4.2 percent, a level not seen since 2009.
If at all possible, people in the UK try to base themselves close to work, making commuting easier, faster and cheaper. This is not always possible and often prohibited by the cost of living in certain areas. Fortunately, the public transportation network in London and the UK is comprehensive. Drivers commuting into London are now subject to a ‘congestion charge’ between 7 am and 6 pm, Monday through Friday, excluding public holidays.
Medical Care and Health Insurance
Great Britain currently has a National Health Service (NHS) that all British citizens and legal, employed residents are entitled to use. However, the recent budget and debt crisis, following on the heels of the recent recession, has forced the UK government to implement austerity programs across the board that will affect the NHS. Services are being severely curtailed, as up to one fifth of specialty care wards are estimated to have closed across Britain.
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete United Kingdom Guide.