April 25, 2023. BBC – The Bank of England’s top economist has said people in the UK need to accept that they are poorer otherwise prices will continue to rise.
Huw Pill told a podcast in the US that there was a “reluctance to accept that, yes, we’re all worse off”.
He said in response to higher bills and other costs rising, workers had responded by asking for wage increases and businesses were charging more.
UK inflation, the rate of which prices rises, was 10.1% in the year to March.
The rate dipped last month from 10.4% but that does not mean prices are falling. It means they are rising at a slightly slower pace.
Inflation in the UK has been higher than the Bank of England’s target of 2% for some time.
Part of the Bank’s job is to keep inflation at its target rate. In response to rising prices it has increased interest rates, which make the cost of borrowing money more expensive.
This move, in theory, is suppose make people reduce spending, so that demand for goods cools down and price rises slow down.
With households being hit by soaring energy bills and food costs, many workers have been asking for pay rises to help ease the pressure on budgets.
Job vacancies have been falling, but are still higher than they have been for decades, strengthening people’s hands as they ask for pay rises.
Although pay has been going up, it has not matched inflation, meaning people are worse off.
‘Someone needs to accept they’re worse off’
Mr Pill said people demanding pay increases and businesses putting prices up added to inflation and caused prices to rise even further across the economy.
“Somehow in the UK, someone needs to accept that they’re worse off and stop trying to maintain their real spending power by bidding up prices, whether through higher wages or passing energy costs on to customers etc,” he told the Beyond Unprecedented podcast from Columbia Law School.
“What we’re facing now is that reluctance to accept that, yes, we’re all worse off and we all have to take our share; to try and pass that cost onto one of our compatriots and saying: ‘We’ll be alright, but they will have to take our share too’.
“That pass-the-parcel game that’s going on here, that game is one that’s generating inflation, and that part of inflation can persist.”
Mr Pill is not the first Bank of England official to warn about wage rises contributing to inflation.
Last year, the Bank’s governor Andrew Bailey urged people not to ask for big pay rises, to try and stop prices rising out of control.
His comments were immediately met with backlash, with unions saying they were “ill-founded”. At the time, Downing Street and the Treasury distanced themselves from Mr Bailey’s comments.
Mr Bailey later urged moderation in price rises from businesses.
Inflation was expected to fall below 10% last month but soaring food prices meant it fell by less than expected.
The British Retail Consortium said it expected food prices to start falling “over the next few months”.
But the retail industry body said there was a three to nine-month lag to see price falls reflected in shops.