Prices are continuing to rise at their fastest rate for 40 years due to climbing food, energy and fuel costs.
UK inflation, the rate at which prices rise, edged up to 9.1% in the 12 months to May, from 9% in April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Higher food prices, particularly for bread, cereal and meat, helped drive the latest rise in the cost of living.
It has led to workers and unions pushing for pay rises to help them cope with higher prices.
But the government has warned against employers handing out big increases in salaries over fears of a 1970s-style “inflationary spiral”, where prices continued to rise as wages went up.
Currently, inflation is at the highest level since March 1982, when it also stood at 9.1% and the Bank of England has warned it will reach 11% this year.
Inflation is the pace at which prices are rising. For example, if a bottle of milk costs £1 and that rises by 5p compared with a year earlier, then milk inflation is 5%.
Households were hit by an unprecedented £700-a-year increase in energy costs in April, and fuel price rises in June mean it costs more than £100 to fill an average family car with petrol.
Rail workers walked out on Tuesday causing severe disruption, with further strikes planned for Thursday and Saturday in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is calling for a pay rise of 7%, while employers have offered a maximum of 3%.
Unison, which represents public sector workers, accused ministers of “living on another planet” over “talks of public sector pay restraint”.
“Under-pressure health, care, school and council services desperately need staff to be given a pay boost that matches runaway prices,” he said.
The biggest teachers’ union is also warning of potential industrial action over pay.
The National Education Union (NEU) has criticised government proposals for a 3% pay increase for most teachers in England, and called for an “inflation-plus increase for all teachers”.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES