THE AREA with the highest earners in Berkshire has been revealed as data shows how the royal county fares against others in the UK.
The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) has published the latest statistics on the average annual income across Berkshire towns and beyond, revealing Berkshire as sitting favourably above the country average.
Average annual incomes of Berkshire towns all exceed the UK median average, with Wokingham residents proving to be the highest earners locally.
Figures show the average annual income in Wokingham is £38,306, that’s £4,666 more than Bracknell, £7,381 more than Reading, and £7,612 more than Slough.
It is possible that income is higher in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, however, that data was not made available.
Annually, Wokingham residents take home £10,306 more than the England average of £28,000 and £8,171 above the south-east average of £30,135.
Wokingham Borough Council’s executive member for equalities, inclusion and fighting poverty, Cllr Rachel Bishop-Firth, said many residents “enjoy a good standard of living” but emphasised that the high cost of living in the area meant life can be “very hard” for those on lower incomes.
The council said it is “no surprise” to them that wages in the borough are higher than average but noted this is “balanced out” by higher house prices and mortgage costs.
As with many areas, a growing number of people in Wokingham are seeking hardship support and the council “envisage this increase in demand continuing”.
Reading, understandably, is the area locally with the greatest number of jobs – 65,000 – and its average annual income of £30,925 is £2,925 above England’s average and £790 above the south-east average.
Reading Borough Council leader Jason Brock, noted the above average wages but also pointed to the cost of living in the south-east being “considerably higher” than in other parts of the country.
This is particularly relevant in terms of steep rental and property prices, which are in addition to the soaring costs of energy and food.
Cllr Brock said many people in the town “will struggle over the difficult weeks and months ahead”, which he says has not been helped by rising mortgage prices caused by the government’s mini-budget announcement in September.
“It is almost inconceivable that in 2022 we are talking about the need to help provide warm winter clothing and food to some desperate families and individuals in Reading,” he added.
“It seems to me a policy more suited for the 19th century than the 21st, but in some cases this is the harsh reality when wages are very far from keeping up with soaring rates of inflation.”
Statistics for Bracknell Forest residents showed an average income of £33,640 – £5,640 above the England average and £2,505 above the south-east average.
However, echoing his neighbouring counterparts, BFC interim assistant director of early help and communities, Mark Barratt, said the council is “fully aware” that some residents will find it hard to pay for essentials like food and heating over the winter.
Mr Barratt pointed to the council’s Community Winter Hubs programme that will offer residents “warm, safe and social spaces” to those struggling during the upcoming winter months.
“We have also refreshed our local welfare scheme, which will continue to support residents in crisis and we will continue to use the Household Support Fund to provide our most vulnerable residents with the help they need, including supermarket vouchers for families registered for free school meals and making additional payments to Crowthorne and Bracknell food banks,” he added.
Slough’s median average income was the lowest in the Thames Valley area at £30,694 – although £2,694 above the England average and £559 above the south-east average.
Slough Borough Council were approached for comment.
Households in the borough are advised to look at what government help they are eligible for via helpforhouseholds.campaign.gov.uk alongside the £150 council tax rebate most households in England will receive.
Slough Outreach also offers help and support to those struggling financially by providing ‘hot meals, warm clothes, advocacy support to those struggling with homelessness, complex needs and the less fortunate people’ in the community.