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YOUR money: Through the roof; BILLS MORE THAN MORTGAGE.

Byline: By CLINTON MANNING

ENERGY bills and council tax cost homeowners more than mortgage payments for the first time ever in the past year, according to a new report.

The turnaround follows huge gas and electricity price rises and Britain's biggest mortgage lender, Halifax, says the gap will widen in the next 12 months as fuel costs go through the roof.

British Gas raised prices by 22 per cent earlier this month and Npower will add more than pounds 100 a year to bills by slapping 15 per cent on gas and 13.4 on electricity from April 1 - its second rise this year.

Council tax bills are rising five per cent on average - twice the rate of inflation.

Together, council tax and other utility bills will make up more than a third of total housing costs this year.

Halifax says the total cost of home ownership increased by an average of pounds 418 from pounds 5,948 in 2003/4 to pounds 6,366 in 2004/5.

Over those two years, higher mortgage payments contributed most to the rise - an average of pounds 2,146.

But in the 2005/06 tax year, which ends next month, mortgage costs will be dwarfed by fuel and council tax bills.

Unsurprisingly, the cost of home ownership is highest in the capital with Londoners shelling out an average pounds 8,133 in the past year - 28 per cent more than the pounds 6,366 national average.

But taking wages into account, East Anglians have the toughest time spending 18.6 per cent of the household income on their property.

Those in the North East have the best deal, home ownership eats up just 16 per cent of income.

Martin Ellis, Halifax's chief economist, says: "The cost of owning and running a home increased at a much faster pace than inflation in 2005.

"Further above-inflation rises in fuel and council tax bills are expected to drive up the costs further this year."

Over the past three years the cost of owning, buying and running a home has risen 14 per cent - compared with headline inflation of 4.6 per cent.

But homeowners are still quids in as average property prices have jumped 38 per cent in that time from pounds 125,571 to pounds 173,498.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 15, 2006
Words:382
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