Where you live makes a big difference to the value of the pound in your pockets, the Tonight Programme has found after secret shoppers visited some of Britain’s biggest high street names.
ITV1’s current affairs series sent the anonymous shoppers around some of the country’s favourite chains to see how much they charged for goods and services.
Researchers found that the household names- including McDonalds, Virgin and Odeon - charged different prices for the same goods at different branches around the UK. We found:
- A glass of pinot grigio wine at Wetherspoons ranged from £2.99 to £5.40
- There was a 139% difference in the price of a family ticket at Odeon Cinemas
- And the same Dominos Pizza ranged from £9.99 in Torquay to £13.50 in Northampton
The differing cost-of-living around the country is already exercising the minds of politicians. Chancellor George Osborne recently announced that the government could freeze public sector wages in some regions where costs are low.
Tonight found the biggest price divide in the UK was in the cost of buying a home and the programme speaks to fireman Clint Riley who lives in Lancashire and commutes 200 miles to work in London.
He says he gets more bang for his buck up North - and wouldn’t be able to afford a family home and his enjoyable lifestyle in London.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that house prices differ across the UK - but what about fast food?
- Tonightfound that at a McDonalds in Newcastlea Big Mac and large coke cost £4.08 but in Swansea,Torquay and Londonthe same meal was just £3.78
- At Dominos Pizzas, the same large cheese and tomato pizza (to be delivered) cost £9.99, £11.99 or £12.99 and £13.50 at outlets across the country
- And a Greggs large sausage roll cost 87p in Norwich but only 68p in Blackpool
- The Wetherspoons pub chain also came under our watchful gaze. Its glass of pinot grigio varied considerably across the country - Newcastle £3.79, Birmingham £4.59 and London £5.40. The difference across the country amounted to 52%
There's one household bill that seems to go in only one direction. Energy bills have rocketed by 140 per cent since 2004, from £522 a year to £1252. But Tonight reporter Jonathan Maitland hears that energy prices amount to something of a postcode lottery.
Mark goes on to save one Birmingham family £284 - or 20% a year - by helping them switch suppliers.
Programme researchers found that though filling up your car is costing you a fortune at the moment - its pretty much the same wherever you go.
We discovered just a 3% difference in costs across the country. The same cant be said for train travel. An average rail season ticket across the country differs by up to 140%.
For many families childcare costs are the biggest expense after their mortgage and where you live again has a direct impact on how much you pay with London topping the price leader board. The most reasonable nursery place is in the West Midlands at £91 - 39% cheaper.
Those are the big bills. What about the little luxuries like going to the gym?
Join a virgin gym in Tunbridge Wells and it costs £65 a month, yet one in Clapham, London cost £81.95. The same game of 10 pin bowling at AMF/Hollywood Bowl may cost a pound or two more or less depending on where in the country you play. And the cost of a family trip to Odeon Cinema varied in every outlet we visited.
The results of our survey in full:
How the companies responded to the Tonight Secret Shopper Survey: