BoE policymaker says halting interest rate rises could embed inflation

Member of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee said she would rather err on the side of over-tightening

The Bank of England. PA
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Cutting UK interest rates or keeping them at the current level could risk embedding high inflation into the economy, a Bank of England policymaker has warned.

Catherine Mann, who is a member of the Bank’s nine-person Monetary Policy Committee in charge of deciding interest rates, said she would rather “err on the side of over-tightening”.

“To pause or to hold the policy rate lower for longer risks inflation becoming more deeply embedded, which would then require more tightening in total, to both change inflation itself and to wring out the embedded inflation that comes from the sustained duration above target," Ms Mann told the Canadian Association for Business Economics.

“But if I am wrong, and inflation decelerates more quickly and activity deteriorates more significantly, I will not hesitate to cut rates."

The caution comes before the MPC is due to meet this month to decide whether or not to lift interest rates from the current rate of 5.25 per cent.

Some economists think rates will go up to 5.5 per cent as pressure remains on the bank to control inflation.

It means it would become more expensive to borrow, mainly affecting mortgage-holders whose fixed-rate deals have come to an end, or those wanting to take out a new loan to buy a home.

Ms Mann has regularly voted to increase interest rates higher than the level her MPC peers have opted for. Last month, she voted to raise the base rate to 5.5 per cent.

“That is because I believe that the MPR forecast, for a long time, has been telling a story fundamentally different from the one that I consider likely,” she said.

“My story has been one of more resilient domestic demand and more persistent price pressures, which therefore requires a more restrictive monetary policy stance.”

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Ms Mann said that holding interest rates at the current level could mean it takes longer to bring inflation down to the Bank’s 2 per cent target, meaning that prices will remain elevated.

The bank should not be guided by the belief that inflation reaching 3 per cent is “close enough” to target, a view becoming popular in some circles, she said.

UK Consumer Prices Index inflation fell to 6.8 per cent in July, down from 7.9 per cent in June, and is expected to drop sharply towards the end of the year.

Updated: September 12, 2023, 2:51 AM