There was no sign of relief for hard-pressed homeowners and borrowers today after the Bank of England kept interest rates on hold for the fifth month in a row.
The Bank's battle against soaring inflation saw it vote to leave rates at 5 per cent, despite worsening prospects for the UK economy.
Growth stalled between April and June and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said this week the UK would be the only major economy to fall into recession this year.
But the widely-expected decision by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) comes with inflation more than double its 2 per cent target at 4.4 per cent - and set to hit 5 per cent in the coming months after the latest round of price hikes by the UK's "big six" energy firms.
The furore over Chancellor Alistair Darling's gloomy comments on the UK's prospects has helped send the pound plunging against the dollar and the euro, adding to inflation pressure.
Most experts predict rates will not fall until November at the earliest when the MPC is satisfied that inflation has peaked.
The CBI business organisation's chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said: "As the autumn unfolds, the chances of a rate cut will increase, as the slowdown improves the inflation outlook for next year."
But the growing risks to the economy have sparked increasingly public divisions among the nine-strong committee.
Professor David Blanchflower has called for immediate rate cuts to avoid a recession and labelled his MPC colleagues "misguided" for their focus on inflation.
He was hitting back at a newspaper article by fellow committee member Tim Besley - who has voted to hike rates at the past two meetings.
Mr Besley has warned that letting inflation get out of control would be "damaging and dangerous to the economy" and herald a return to the 1970s.
Steve Radley, chief economist at the EEF manufacturers' organisation, said rate-setters faced a difficult dilemma.
"So long as inflation remains stubbornly high, the Bank will continue to face a tough choice. But mounting evidence of a stagnating economy means the case for further cuts is growing," he said.
The latest round of industry surveys published this week showed the UK's manufacturing, construction and services sectors all continuing to shrink during August, despite a marginal improvement on July's lows.
Meanwhile confidence among consumers hit by rising bills has ebbed as the housing market continues to tumble.
According to the Halifax, house prices fell at a record rate last month - sliding 1.8 per cent to leave the average property costing £174,178 - 12.7 per cent less than in August last year. Halifax said the latest fall meant house prices had returned to a level last seen in February 2006.
The impact of this has been felt on the high street, with the CBI warning last week that retailers had a "summer to forget" after record falls in sales volumes during July and August.
Stephen Robertson, director-general of the British Retail Consortium, said that keeping rates steady was "the right decision for now".
But he warned: "The Bank should not risk making a bad situation worse by delaying a rate cut any longer than is absolutely necessary."Reuse content