*This article was updated on 15th November 2023 following the base rate decision. Some information may no longer be current.
The Bank of England (BoE) has announced a 0.25% rise in the base rate, bringing it to a total of 5.25%. This is meant to help tackle rising inflation, but why exactly does it happen?
Why does inflation affect interest rates? What impact does inflation have on our everyday lives and interest rates, and what does the government do to combat it?
What is inflation?
At its most basic, inflation is a rise in prices. This means that over time, our money gets weaker because we can’t buy as much for the same amount. This is otherwise known as purchasing power. The rate of decline in purchasing power is measured by the average price of a basket of select goods. These are goods which we rely on or use most frequently, so they’re often in our proverbial shopping basket.
What is in a basket of goods?
As of 2023, there are around 743 items in the basket of goods, representing a variety of goods and services1. As an example of just how varied this basket is, included in the 2023 review were canned pulses, pet collars, sports bras, and antibacterial wipes.
The prices of these are reviewed periodically throughout the year, and experts use these to track changes to spending power and measure inflation. The main purpose in having a basket of goods is to help measure inflation, since they come together to represent a single value in the rising cost of goods and services over time in an economy. CPI, or the Consumer Price Index is the most commonly used term for this.
What is causing inflation now?
The UK is not the only country dealing with a cost of living crisis and many others report similar reasons. There are three universal factors2 that drive inflation, no matter where you are. These are:
Demand-pull: when demand for goods or services exceeds supply
Cost-push: When productions costs increase prices
Built-in: when prices increase, wages (should) rise in turn
The war in Ukraine, recent production strains, shortages of goods, increased costs of energy, and the fallout from Covid have all contributed to these triggers, which has pushed inflation up for many countries all over the world.
In order to control inflation, governments and central world banks, like the Bank of England, will attempt to maintain a steady balance between growth in demand and supply.
Why does increasing the interest rate help lower inflation?
When interest rates go up, it increases the rate of borrowing, both in minor and major loans like mortgages. This move encourages people to save their money rather than spend it. It is a challenging balance to achieve, however, as the BoE doesn’t want to bring the economy down to a crawl.
These decisions must be weighed carefully and in equal measure, which is why a team of nine economists, the Monetary Policy Committee, meet around eight times a year, or every six weeks, to make considerations about the economies performance.
UK inflation rate predictions
While the inflation rate has been on a steady rise, and is a far cry from the 2% the BoE aims to maintain, they imply that the rate of inflation will slow again, though the prices of some goods may remain high compared to past costs.
Inflation has started to fall this year3 and that’s largely because it’s unlikely the cost of energy and imported goods will continue to rise as swiftly as they have been.
Similarly, production difficulties following Covid should ease the burden of supply and demand, which should help bring prices back down.
What this means for you
In an ideal world we’d be able to predict major financial shifts and trends, but even with the BoE’s reassurance, we can’t say for certain when inflation or interest rates will decrease.
Now may be the ideal time to review your mortgage, especially if your fixed rate is ending. Speak to a mortgage adviser if you have concerns regarding your mortgage and the potential for rate increases. They may be able to help you lock in a lower interest rate before prices rise once more.
References and sources:
Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
There may be a fee for mortgage advice. The actual amount you pay will depend on your circumstances. The fee is up to 1% but a typical fee is 0.3% of the amount borrowed.
You may have to pay an early repayment charge to your existing lender if you remortgage.