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The Bank of England held interest rates at 5.25% despite continued falls in the rate of inflation and a return for growth for the UK economy in January.

The Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted by eight to one to hold the base rate at 5.25%, the fifth month in a row that it has stayed at that level.

The Bank said that it needs to be certain that inflation will fall to its 2% target and stay there before making cuts to rates.

David Bharier, Head of Research at the BCC, said the decision to hold rates was widely expected.

He added:

‘However, it prolongs the period of uncertainty for firms grappling with high borrowing costs.

‘While [the] inflation data showed a further easing, most small businesses know that the economy remains fragile. The interest rate is itself a driver of inflation, as housing, rental, and borrowing costs continue to rise.

‘Our most recent forecast expects some cuts to the base rate going forward, potentially falling to 4.5% by the end of the year. But in the meantime, businesses need reassurance from policymakers that there is a clear plan to drive much needed economic growth.’

The Bank’s decision followed the release of data that showed the pace of inflation has slowed.

It fell to 3.4% in February, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

That is down from 4% in January and December, and the lowest rate for nearly two and a half years.

The slower pace of food price rises helped push down overall inflation, along with soft drinks, restaurants and hotels, the ONS said.

This effect was partially offset by petrol prices and rental costs.

Meanwhile, the UK’s economy returned to growth in January, according to the ONS.

The economy grew by 0.2% during the first month of 2024 following a fall in output during the previous month.

The economy was boosted by stronger sales in shops and online and more construction activity in January.

The ONS said the services sector led the bounce back after retailers struggled to draw in shoppers in December.

Internet link: BoE website BCC website ONS website ONS website

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