SOARING food and clothing prices saw the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation rate measure for March rising to 3.5% from 3.4% in February.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that food and soft drink prices are 4.6% higher than in March 2011, citing higher prices for bread, cereals, meat and fruit and vegetables in particular.
Clothing and footwear also contributed to the rise.
However, the ONS claimed that the inflation rate on gas and electricity prices is lower than a year ago.
It also claimed that fuel price rises in March were lower than the increases in March 2011.
According to the (ONS), the Retail Prices Index (RPI) rate of inflation fell to 3.6% from 3.7%.
The inflation figures measure the rate at which prices are rising compared with the same month a year ago.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Inflation is not falling as fast as many hoped. With pay growth also weak, families are getting poorer every month.
‘Wages have been falling since mid 2010 and the government’s own forecasters are predicting a three year earnings drop.
‘You cannot build a sustainable economic recovery off the back of people getting poorer, so ministers must do everything they possibly can to get more money into people’s pockets.
‘Giving families a few hundred extra pounds in their personal allowance while taking away thousands more in tax credit cuts is not the way to ease the strain on people’s finances.’
Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘The pay freeze across the public sector is already hitting hundreds of thousands of families hard.
‘Many are struggling to keep out of debt and are cutting back on essentials.
‘They are fighting a losing battle against the double whammy of inflation and the damage caused by pay erosion as a result of the two-year freeze in the NHS extending to three years for council workers.
‘It is time the government realised that their no-hope, no-jobs, cuts-only policies are not working.
‘We need a government prepared to invest in growth and with the policies to kick-start the economy and help people back into work.’
All Trade Unions Alliance National Secretary Dave Wiltshire said: ‘Families are indeed getting poorer every month. But instead of pleading with the Tory-LibDem Coalition to “invest in growth” the TUC must organise action to defend its members and the working class.
‘It must call a general strike to bring the coalition down and bring in a workers’ government which will nationalise the banks and major industries and organise a socialist planned economy which will produce for need instead of profit.’