Belfast Telegraph

Fuel bills have soared over 140% since 1998

By Peter Cripps and Clare Weir

Fuel bills in Northern Ireland have risen by 142% since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, according to a top economist.

Richard Ramsey from Ulster Bank was speaking as it emerged that UK inflation jumped to 2.6% in July, well above analysts' predictions of a drop from 2.4% to 2.3%.

Looking at the latest data from the Office of National Statistics, Mr Ramsey has highlighted that from April 1998 to July 2012 utility bills for electricity, gas and other fuels are up 142%.

Fuel has gone up by 101% and air, bus, train -amp; boat fares are up by 35%.

But he said clothing and footwear prices are 50% below where they were in April 1998.

Mr Ramsey said the jump came after a series of undershoots in the previous three months.

"Whilst the annual inflation rate always grabs the headlines, it is the cumulative rise in consumer prices that has been squeezing household incomes," he said.

"Since the credit crunch began in August 2007, UK consumer prices have risen by 17%.

"Meanwhile, food prices increased by less than 17% between April 1998 and August 2007 whereas since the credit crunch began nearly five years ago prices have spiralled by almost 31%."

Dr Esmond Birnie, chief economist for PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Northern Ireland said that the figures were disappointing.

"However, inflation is still 50% below last September's peak and the general trend remains downwards, with the increase in air fares, particularly to European destinations, a major contributor to today's figures," he said.

"So long as the eurozone crisis remains unresolved, the UK and its regions cannot expect to see any significant recovery."

The rise in the rate of CPI brings to an end three months of falls, intensifying the squeeze on struggling families.

Office for National Statistics figures show air fares, which are highly seasonal, rose 21.7% between June and July: the largest increase since 2004.

Travel companies recently reported an increase in demand for foreign holidays as people look to escape the wet weather, while there have been anecdotal reports of people leaving London to escape the Olympics invasion.

July saw the record-smallest monthly fall in prices in footwear and clothing.

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.