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    UK inflation hits decades high in cost of living squeeze

    LONDON (AFP) – British annual inflation accelerated to a near 30-year high in December, official data showed yesterday, stoking fears over a cost of living squeeze as wages fail to keep pace.

    Economies worldwide are battling decades-high inflation that is forcing central banks to lift interest rates, including the Bank of England (BoE) which last month raised its key borrowing cost for the first time in more than three years.

    The United Kingdom’s (UK) inflation rate hit 5.4 per cent last month, rising further above target on price gains for clothing, domestic energy, food and furniture, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

    The BoE, whose chief task is to keep inflation close to a two-per-cent target, is now expected to hike again at its next meeting in February amid easing concerns over Omicron.

    Britain’s cost of living is forecast to soar even higher in April due to looming hikes in national insurance tax and domestic energy, analysts said.

    Inflation had already forged a decade-high of 5.1 per cent in November. The rate had hit 7.1 per cent in March 1992.

    Prices for food, clothing and domestic energy rose in December in the United Kingdom. PHOTO: AFP

    “The inflation rate rose again at the end of the year and has not been higher for almost 30 years,” said ONS Chief Economist Grant Fitzner.

    “Food prices again grew strongly while increases in furniture and clothing also pushed up annual inflation.

    “These large rises were slightly offset by petrol prices, which despite being at record levels were stable this month, but rose this time last year.”

    Fitzner added that last year’s Covid lockdowns had impacted some items but the overall impact on headline inflation rate was “negligible”.

    Consumers and businesses are struggling with surging costs, hit also by ongoing pandemic turmoil and supply chain problems. At the same time, salaries are failing to keep pace.

    Real wages in November fell on the year for the first time since mid-2020 following a spike to inflation, official data showed on Tuesday.

    In reaction to yesterday’s data, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak insisted the Conservative government understood the cost of living squeeze.

    However, the main opposition Labour Party argued that families would be rocked by “substantial” tax rises and “huge” increases in energy bills.

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