Julian Jessop

The ONS’s inflation measurement change isn’t ‘new’

Food campaigner Jack Monroe (Getty)

The way we measure inflation is changing, and there could hardly be a less crucial time for it to do so. The ONS will be updating the method for collecting individual prices from supermarkets, and will also publish new figures on inflation rates for different types of household.

The anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe has tweeted that the ONS ‘have just announced that they are going to be changing the way they collect and report on the cost of food prices and inflation to take into consideration a wider range of income levels and household circumstances’. But Monroe, who hope that the new metrics will show that inflation is hitting poorer families harder, will be disappointed.

On Friday, the ONS will be resuming publishing data breaking down inflation for different types of household. The metrics are broken down by income, expenditure, housing tenure, retirement status, and the number of children.

The last release of these figures were in February 2020, then the publication was suspended due to Covid. The past reports have also not shown large differences in inflation rates between different types of household, including income groups. In most cases the gaps have only been a few tenths of a percentage point.

The last release of these figures were in February 2020, then the publication was suspended due to Covid

There is a widespread assumption that recent inflation has hit poorer households worse, mainly because they spend a larger proportion of their income on food and, especially, domestic energy bills. Friday’s data will shed more light on this.

However, the rise in inflation has been far broader. There have also been large increases in the prices of cars, motor fuel, holidays, recreation, household goods, and hospitality — all areas where richer households typically spend a larger proportion of their income.

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