Inflation fell sharply to a four-and-a-half-year low in May as supermarket price wars pushed food and drink costs to their steepest decline in nearly a decade.

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The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation dropped more heavily than expected to 1.5pc, from 1.8pc the month before, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

CPI equalled the rate seen in October 2009. It was last lower, at 1.1pc, in September 2009.

The latest figures mark the sixth month in a row when the rate has been at or below the Bank of England’s 2pc target, the first time this has happened since 2009.

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