Andrew Bailey accused of being asleep at the wheel as inflation set to hit almost seven times target

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The banker who is running out of credit: Andrew Bailey is accused of being asleep at the wheel as inflation is set to hit almost seven times his official target and hard-hit Britons face soaring interest rates and a year of recession

  • The Bank of England admitted that inflation in the UK will go above 13 per cent
  • Critics accuse Bank Governor of being asleep at the wheel as recession looms 
  • The Bank raised interest rates by 0.5 percentage points to reach 1.75 per cent

The Bank of England faced a ferocious backlash last night after admitting inflation will pass 13 per cent.

Bank Governor Andrew Bailey was forced to deny he had been ‘asleep at the wheel’ as he warned that Britain faced a lengthy recession.

Critics said Bank officials should ‘rue the day’ they decided not to raise interest rates last year. It came as grim economic predictions forced the Bank to raise interest rates by 0.5 percentage points – the largest amount since 1995 – to reach 1.75 per cent.

It is a highly unusual move. While higher rates can help to tame prices, they can also slam the brakes on economic growth. The Bank also revised its expectations for inflation to a peak of 13.3 per cent in October. Just two months ago, it was predicting a maximum of 11 per cent.

Deflation: Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey denied he had been ‘asleep at the wheel’

Deflation: Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey denied he had been ‘asleep at the wheel’

The Bank said the red-hot inflation will cause the UK to slump into a drawn-out recession, with output shrinking for 15 months from the final quarter of this year until the end of 2023.

Households will see their real incomes, or how much money they make taking into account rising prices, fall by the largest amount on record, it predicted.

The bleak update deepened the Tory leadership contenders’ bitter debate over the best way to repair the economy.

Rishi Sunak claimed interest rates would reach as high as 7 per cent under rival Liz Truss’s proposals – while she insisted her plan to cut taxes would fuel economic growth.

Miss Truss will look at whether the Bank of England was ‘fit for purpose’ if she became prime minister, an ally said.

Rishi Sunak

Liz Truss

Rishi Sunak claimed interest rates would reach as high as 7 per cent under rival Liz Truss’s proposals – while she insisted her plan to cut taxes would fuel economic growth

In other developments:

  • Experts warned that millions of homeowners are facing a ‘mortgage ticking time-bomb’ as their fixed deals come to an end and rates rise;
  • Banks were again accused of cashing in on rate hikes by being quick to pass on increases to borrowers but dragging their feet when it comes to savings rates;
  • Struggling households face even more frequent energy bill hikes after watchdog Ofgem ruled the price cap should be changed every three months rather than twice a year;
  • It emerged that Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and his deputy, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke, are both away from their desks as Britain faces dire economic warnings.

The Bank of doom and gloom

The Bank of England’s gloomy picture of the state of Britain’s economy over the coming years:

RECESSION

The economy will shrink for 15 months, starting in October, wiping 2.1 per cent off the UK’s output from peak to trough. The recession will be as long as the downturn during the 2008 financial crisis, although less severe.

INFLATION

The rise in the cost of living is set to peak at 13.3 per cent in October – the highest since 1980 – and remain high through much of 2023 as prices continue to rise. Most of this will be driven by the effects of the war in Ukraine.

ENERGY

As western countries try to shun Russia’s fuel supplies, and the Kremlin turns the gas tap off, energy prices are rocketing. The average household’s annual energy bill will rise to £3,450 when the next price cap rise is pushed through in October – worse than expected.

INCOME

Households’ real income – which takes into account inflation – will fall for two years, the first time this has happened since records began in the 1960s.

INTEREST RATES

The Bank has pushed up its base rate by 0.5 percentage points, the largest hike in 27 years, to 1.75 per cent. While this should help to keep a lid on prices, it will also cause more pain for mortgage holders and other borrowers as the cost of their debt climbs.

Some economists had been calling on the Bank to raise rates since last summer, when signs that inflation was heating up began to emerge.

The Bank did not begin raising interest rates until December. Since then, it has embarked on an unprecedented string of rate hikes at six back-to-back meetings.

Mr Bailey said he had ‘huge sympathy’ for squeezed borrowers, but added: ‘I’m afraid the alternative is even worse, in terms of persistent inflation.’

Attorney General Suella Braverman, who is backing Miss Truss’s leadership campaign, said: ‘Interest rates should have been raised a long time ago and the Bank of England has been too slow in this regard.’ Andrew Sentance, a former member of the Bank’s rate-setting monetary policy committee (MPC), agreed that policymakers ‘have acted too late’.

‘I would have voted in the second half of last year for quicker interest rate rises and bigger interest rate rises,’ he said.

‘In my world, interest rates would have been up to 3 or 4 per cent now – instead we’re at 1.75 per cent. The MPC should rue the day collectively when they didn’t raise rates when they were so low.’

Gerard Lyons, of wealth manager Netwealth, said the ‘downbeat’ message delivered by Mr Bailey was ‘a reflection that the Bank of England is suffering from a self-inflicted credibility gap’.

Business leaders were also irritated by Mr Bailey’s pessimism. Advertising tycoon Martin Sorrell said: ‘Nobody was expecting that today – he’s rung the alarm bell and predicted a recession.’ He described the interest rate hike as ‘too much, too late’, adding: ‘It’s grim and we’re in for a really rough time.’

Mr Bailey was defensive when asked if his critics had a point when they said that ‘having been asleep at the wheel, the Bank is now slamming on the brakes at precisely the wrong time’.

He said: ‘No, I don’t think they do. We have been hit – or the world economy has been hit – by very big shocks. And for the UK, that means very big external shocks.’ Mr Bailey insisted that ‘returning inflation to the 2 per cent target remains our absolute priority – there are no ifs and buts about that’.

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