SOARING fuel and domestic energy prices led to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation rate rising from 2.7% to 2.8% in February, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said yesterday.
The official rate would have been much higher were it not for a sharp fall in the price of such items as chocolate, confectionery, soft drinks and off sales alcohol, reported the ONS.
The CPI will grow to 3.5% this summer as food and petrol prices rise still further, Vicky Redwood of Capital Economics predicted.
The Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation rate, which is used to set state pensions, fell to 3.2% in February, from 3.3% in January.
Recent TUC research has found that a worker on a median salary of £25,000 has lost £4,000 since December 2009 and is set to lose a further £2,000 by next year.
Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison, said: ‘A public sector pay freeze turned squeeze has hit families and high streets hard. The spiralling cost of energy means people face the misery of choosing between heating and eating.
‘And as families suffer, its boom time for millionaires in Tory Britain who are in line for tax cuts in tomorrow’s budget.’
A recent survey by Unison’s Welfare Fund, found that more than half of applicants for a fuel grant (56.6%) had sacrificed food to keep warm, while 69% had cut back on clothing and 80% on leisure.
The survey also revealed that 77.7% avoid putting the heating on, while 54.6% only heat the room they are in.
In the last year there has been a massive 388% increase in applications to the union’s fund for fuel grant assistance.
The ONS said: ‘There were a number of effects pushing the inflation rate up between January and February; the largest came from electricity and gas where average bills rose as expected. There were also upward pushes from recreational goods (such as games and photographic equipment), motor fuels and air transport.
‘Petrol prices rose by 4.0 pence per litre between January and February 2013 compared with a more modest 1.9 pence per litre rise in 2012. Similarly diesel prices rose by 3.7 pence per litre in 2013 compared with 1.4 pence per litre in 2012. Air fares also rose between January and February this year but fell between the same two months a year ago.
‘Partly offsetting these upward effects, overall food & non-alcoholic drink prices pushed down on the headline rate between January and February. The effect came principally from chocolate and confectionery and soft drinks.’