Bank of England's Pill says BoE must guard against inflation sticking above 2%

·2-min read
General view of the Bank of England building, in London

By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) -The Bank of England needs to guard against second-round inflationary effects which could see inflation bottom out at 4% or 5%, rather than return to its 2% target, BoE Chief Economist Huw Pill said on Monday.

"The risk is ... that self-sustaining, second-round-effect momentum within the UK economy keeps inflation running at above-target levels," Pill said in an online presentation organised by the central bank.

The BoE raised its main interest rate to 4.5% from 4.25% last week - its 12th consecutive rate rise - and forecast inflation would return to its 2% target in early 2025, later than it had anticipated three months earlier.

Consumer price inflation was 10.1% in Britain in March, higher than in any other major Western economy.

Pill said the BoE was aiming to prevent a scenario where the biggest short-term drivers of inflation such as rising energy and food prices dissipated but businesses and workers still sought hefty rises in prices and pay.

"That's still compatible with quite a big fall in headline inflation, but maybe headline inflation - other things equal - getting stuck at that 4%, 5% level over the next two or three years," he added.

"It's precisely that that we want to avoid, because if inflation gets stuck at that type of level, it will tend to carry on for a very long time."

Pill also said he regretted his choice of language in a podcast broadcast last month, where he said Britons as a whole needed to accept that they were poorer as a result of a rise in the cost of imported energy and food.

Governor Andrew Bailey publicly rebuked Pill for this language in a press conference last week.

"If I had the chance again, I probably would use somewhat different words," Pill said on Monday.

However, Pill said it was the BoE's job to be upfront about economic problems.

"I appreciate this is a little bit of a tough message, but ... having to pay more for what we're buying from the rest of the world relative to what we're selling to the world is a squeeze on our spending power.

"If we want to get back to the same standard of living, we do need that growth of productivity," he said.

(Reporting by David Milliken and Muvija M, editing by Mark Heinrich)