The annual rate of inflation remained at 2.1 per cent in December, level with that of November, according to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics showed that the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages experienced the largest upward movement. The prices of staples including bread, cereals and vegetables all increased.

However, there was downward pressure on the index from furniture and furnishings, where kitchen units were discounted.

At 2.1 per cent, the CPI figure for November was below the provisional figure of 3.1 per cent for the European Union as a whole.