Petrol prices push inflation up

High prices at the petrol pumps helped push annual inflation up to 3.4% last month as the cost of living increased at a quicker than expected pace, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation increased from 3% in February after a 2.7% rise in petrol prices in the month. The surge in CPI was quicker than economists had predicted and gives the Government an unwelcome problem in a crucial week for economic data in the election tussle.

As most of the recent gas reductions have not yet taken place, energy prices also contributed to the rise back up in inflation, compared with falls last March, the ONS said.

However, the upward direction of petrol prices will highlight Labour's 1p hike on duty imposed on April 1.

Motorists have been facing record costs at the petrol pump, with oil prices hitting recent 18-month highs.

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