Cost of living crisis: Jack Monroe hails ONS revision of inflation calculations | Inflation
Concerns that rising inflation could disproportionately impact people in the UK’s poorest households prompted government analysts to provide a more detailed breakdown of the cost of living.
The Office for National Statistics said it accepted that each person has their own rate of inflation and would do more to capture the impact of price increases on different income groups.
Mike Hardie, head of inflation statistics at the ONS, said in a blog that the published annual inflation rate – currently 5.4% – was an average for all households. “But everyone has their own personal inflation rate. Some people may spend a greater proportion of their income on gas and electricity, or on petrol if you drive daily.
The move was hailed by food writer and activist Jack Monroe, who has exposed how the prices of cheaper food items soared as availability decreased, contributing to increased hunger and poverty.
Monroe, which compiles an inflation index to track basic food prices, tweeted: “I am delighted to be able to tell you that the @ONS just announced that they will be changing the way they collect and report the cost of food prices and inflation to take into consideration a wider range of household income levels and circumstances.
Writing in last week’s Observer, Monroe said: ‘In 2012 10 cubes of stock from Sainsbury’s Basics range cost 10p. In 2022, those same bouillon cubes are 39p, but only available in chicken or beef. The cheapest vegetable stock cubes are, inexplicably, £1 for 10.
“Last year the Smart Price pasta at my local Asda was 29p for 500g. Today it’s not available so the cheapest bag is 70p; a 141% price hike for the same product in more colorful packaging.”
The estate of Terry Pratchett has authorized Monroe to use the Vimes Boots Index as the name of the new price index, which aims to document the “insidiously creeping prices” of food staples.
The index, Monroe said, would be called the Vimes Boots Index in honor of Pratchett’s creation, Sam Vimes, who in the Discworld novel Men at Arms exposes the “Sam Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of ‘socio-economic injustice’.
The author’s daughter, writer Rhianna Pratchett, said her father would have been proud to see his work used in this way by the anti-poverty campaigner.
The ONS previously published a more detailed breakdown of inflation, but this was suspended during the Covid pandemic as many items were unavailable. During the previous economic downturn, the 2008-09 financial crisis, when inflation also rose, the ONS said poorer households were more severely affected.
“Given the level of interest in the cost of living and inflation, we plan to restart this series,” Hardie said.
In the longer term, he added, the ONS was “transforming” the way it measured prices in order to understand people’s spending habits in greater detail and faster. The ONS measures inflation by looking at the cost of 700 items from a number of price points.
“We are currently developing sweeping new plans to dramatically increase the number of prize points each month from 180,000 to hundreds of millions, using prizes sent to us directly from supermarket checkouts,” Hardie said.
“This means that we will not only include an apple in one store…but how much each apple costs, and how many of each type were purchased, in many other stores in all parts of the country.”