UK: Inflation hits new 30-year high ahead of Sunak statement

The cost of living continued to soar last month, laying bare the challenge the chancellor faces ahead of his spring spending statement on Wednesday.

Prices rose by 6.2% in the 12 months to February – the fastest for 30 years – as fuel, energy and food costs surged.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak faces growing calls to offer more support as household budgets are squeezed.

Prices are rising faster than wages and the Bank of England thinks it could hit double digits this year.

There is speculation Mr Sunak could cut fuel duty, boost benefits and raise the threshold for national insurance when he shares his spending plans at midday today.

Inflation is the rate at which prices rise. If a bottle of milk costs £1 and that rises by 5p, then milk inflation is 5%.

Grant Fitzner, chief economist at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said prices had risen for a wide range of goods and services, from food to toys and games.

“Clothing and footwear saw a return to traditional February price rises after last year’s falls when many shops were closed.

“Furniture and flooring also contributed to the rise in inflation as prices started to recover following new year sales,” he added.

Since December last year, prices have been rising at their fastest rate since the 1990s. Inflation is expected to accelerate in April when the energy price cap is lifted.

This will push up the average household fuel bill up by £693 a year in England, Scotland and Wales, while a planned rise in National Insurance will also put pressure on household budgets.