UK inflation surges to 40-year high of 9% as food and energy prices spiral

The Office for National Statistics said consumer price inflation was probably last higher sometime around 1982. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LONDON (REUTERS) - British inflation leapt last month to its highest annual rate since 1982, piling pressure on Finance Minister Rishi Sunak to step up help for households facing a worsening cost-of-living crisis.

Consumer price inflation hit 9 per cent in April, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday (May 18), surpassing even the peaks of the early 1990s recession that many Britons remember for sky-high interest rates and widespread mortgage defaults.

The pound fell after the data and was down by 0.4 per cent against the US dollar.

Soaring energy bills were the biggest driver of price growth in April, reflecting last month’s increase in regulated energy tariffs.

Mr Sunak said countries around the world were being hit by high inflation.

“We cannot protect people completely from these global challenges but are providing significant support where we can, and stand ready to take further action,” he said.

Anti-poverty campaigners called on him to act now, starting with an immediate increase in the value of welfare benefits to match inflation.

“As the price of essentials like food and energy continue to soar, the Chancellor’s inaction will make an already desperate situation for many even worse,” said Ms Rebecca McDonald, senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which campaigns for lower income households.

A survey published on Tuesday showed two in three people in Britain were turning off their heating, almost half were driving less or changing supermarkets and slightly more than a quarter say they have skipped meals.

Earlier this month, the Bank of England forecast inflation would top 10 per cent later this year and investors expect the bank will add to the four interest rate increases it has done since December that took its bank rate to 1 per cent, its highest since 2009.

“Things are going to get worse before they get better,” said Mr Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics consultancy, of Wednesday’s data.

There were signs of further inflation pressure ahead as manufacturers suffered the joint biggest increase on record in the prices they pay for their inputs - prices were up by an annual 18.6 per cent, matching March’s high.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.