Inflation soars to 7% as food and fuel prices jump higher than expected during last month

The new ONS data shows that wages are not keeping pace with rising cost of living.

The squeeze on households tightened in March as rapidly rising food and fuel prices sent inflation to another 30-year high, even before energy bills spiked.


The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation rose 7% in the year to March, up from 6.2% in February. It was once more the highest point since March 1992, when inflation hit 7.1%.


The rise was higher than the 6.7% analysts had expected and was driven by fuel, restaurant and food prices, dealing an added blow to households - petrol at 160.2p per litre on average in March and diesel at 170.5p, were both at record high prices.


However, March’s inflation does not take into account the average 54% hike in energy bills that was applied to around 22 million households at the start of the month.


This will not appear in CPI figures until next month, when April’s data is expected to show another jump, further highlighting the increasing squeeze on ordinary people.


Commenting on the figures, ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner, said: “Broad-based price rises saw annual inflation increase sharply again in March.


“Amongst the largest increases were petrol costs, with prices mostly collected before the recent cut in fuel duty.”


He also pointed out steep jumps in restaurant and hotel prices while the cost of many food items rose.


Jack Leslie, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: “With ONS data yesterday showing that wages are not keeping pace with rising prices, Britain’s cost-of-living crisis – on track to be the biggest squeeze since the mid-70s – will continue to worsen before it starts to ease at some point next year.”


The Bank of England has predicted that inflation could peak at around 8% in April as the new energy prices are factored in.


Alpesh Paleja, lead economist at the Confederation of British Industry, also warned of further inflation rises to come.


“Volatility in global commodity prices and ongoing supply chain disruption will continue to stoke price pressures,” he said.


“The result will be even higher costs for businesses, and a deep squeeze in the cost-of-living for households.”


He called for efforts to make homes and workplaces more energy efficient as a way to keep bills down, something that experts warned was missing from the Government’s energy strategy last week.


Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in response to the latest figures: “We’re seeing rising costs caused by global pressures in our supply chains and energy markets which could be exacerbated further by Russian aggression in Ukraine.”


He said that the UK Government would provide £22 billion of support this financial year and is helping people into work.


PA