Cost of living crisis continues

Food prices soar according to latest figures as inflation stays at record-breaking levels

Reading time: 4 min

Inflation continues to stay at record-breaking levels, according to the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics today (January 18).

Although headline inflation fell slightly for the second month in a row, from 14 per cent RPI in November to 13.4 per cent in December, food inflation continues to soar to a 40-year high.

The rise in food inflation – which increased by 16.9 per cent in the year to December, up from 16.4 per cent the previous month – is being driven primarily by the rise in price in food staples, including milk, cheese and eggs, which rose in price the fastest.

Other food items that saw price increases include sugar, jam, honey and chocolate as well as soft drinks and juices.

Coach and air fare prices also rose sharply, with air fares rising by an astonishing 44.1 per cent – the largest jump since January 1989.

Headline inflation only decreased slightly because of a modest drop in the price of fuel, with the price of petrol dropping 8p per litre in December compared to the previous month, while the price of diesel fell by 16p.

But ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner warned the BBC’s Today Programme that the slight fall in headline inflation was not a signal that the current crisis would be easing any time soon.

“It is important to point out although we’ve seen a second consecutive easing, it is fairly modest fall and inflation is still at a very high level with overall prices rising strongly,” he said.

UniteLive spoke to Unite rep and paramedic Debbie Wilkinson, who is joining thousands of Unite members in an upcoming ambulance strike on January 23.

Debbie expressed deep concern over high inflation.

“Even though inflation has dropped only slightly, if you look at the figures – over 13 per cent RPI inflation is still more than three times the pay rise we received, which was just 4 per cent, so it’s nowhere near enough for us to keep up with rising prices” she explained.

“A marginal drop in the price of fuel isn’t going to help hundreds of thousands of NHS and other workers who rely on public transport to get to work,” she added. “Even those who do use cars to get to work, they still have to pay for parking – all these costs add up and we’re really struggling to cope.”

Commenting on the latest inflation figures, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The cost of living crisis continues and today’s figures do little to change that. Profiteering is at obscene levels across the economy, and the government remains intent on forcing workers to pay for a crisis not of their making.

“The question of ‘who pays?’ is still being answered at the expense of workers and communities,” The truth of the matter is that the inflation crisis cannot be confronted in any real sense until ‘runaway’ profiteering is challenged, head on.”

Indeed, the latest forecasts for profits show the UK’s biggest supermarkets are set for bumper profits, even as consumers are seeing eye-watering hikes in the prices of basic food items.

The Times reported last week that Sainsbury’s is projecting that its pre-tax profits would be at the top end of its forecasts, between £630m and £690m after strong Christmas sales.

Tesco likewise reported that its profits would exceed previous years – the supermarket leader is forecasting operating profits of between £2.4bn and £2.5bn, up from a five-year average of £2.17bn.

By Hajera Blagg