OPINION - The Standard View: Cutting inflation a vital task – and Britain still has some way to go
It is heavily caveated and higher than expectations in the City, but at last there is some relief for households: inflation has fallen. April’s CPI headline rate of 8.7 per cent represents the first sub-10 per cent figure for eight months, sparking hopes that the worst of the cost-of-living crisis may be behind us.
Much of the drop can be attributed to the fact that last spring’s energy price rises have fallen out of the annualised figures. And with fuel costs expected to keep falling, this should generate lower inflation as the year goes on — welcome news for the Prime Minister, who has made halving inflation one of his five key pledges.
However, several factors ought to concern both him and the Chancellor. Most notably that core inflation — which strips out more volatile prices — in fact rose from 6.2 per cent to 6.8 per cent, indicating that underlying price pressures may be more entrenched than initially thought. At the same time, the price of food continues to soar, coming in at an eye-watering 19.1 per cent last month — a near-record high.
All this will heap further pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates once more to maintain a tight grip on inflation, in doing so raising the cost of borrowing for households.
Getting inflation back to the two per cent target is a vital but painful task. Clearly, Britain still has some way to go.
Oxford Street scourge
They sprung up seemingly overnight during lockdown, filling the voids left by shuttering businesses. US candy stores have become ever-present on Oxford Street, much to the detriment of shoppers and the local authority coffers.
The leader of Westminster city council, Adam Hug, has today called on freeholders to ask their leaseholders to stop letting agents lease vacant properties to candy or souvenir shops, which he says diminish the value “both financially and reputationally” of the West End.
Mr Hug is right. A recent investigation by the Evening Standard looked into the sale of illegal goods and money laundering being carried out by candy stores on Oxford Street. The shops currently owe the council £9.2 million in unpaid business rates.
Locals and tourists alike visiting the West End want to see the return of big-name brands, not counterfeits and unsafe goods. Let this be the start of a major fightback for the soul of Oxford Street.
The wonder of Wes
Cult filmmaker extraordinaire Wes Anderson’s new film Asteroid City, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, has all the classic hallmarks of his back catalogue —whimsy and charm — while infused with a fresh energy.
See it for the star-studded cast (Scarlett Johansson, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Hanks) but mostly for your biennial booster of Andersonian magic.