Catalogue description Office for National Statistics: Retail Prices Index (RPI) and Consumer Prices Index (CPI) Datasets

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Details of RG 77
Reference: RG 77
Title: Office for National Statistics: Retail Prices Index (RPI) and Consumer Prices Index (CPI) Datasets

Retail Prices Index (RPI) and Consumer Prices Index (CPI) dataset contains information relevant to those two economic measures. Consumer Price indices measure the change in the general level of prices charged for goods and services bought for the purpose of consumption in the UK. The CPI and the RPI are the two main measures of inflation. The indices represent the average change in prices across a wide range of consumer purchases. This is achieved by carefully recording the prices of a typical selection of products from month to month, using a large sample of shops and other outlets throughout the UK. Although the two indices are similar, there are some areas where the CPI differs significantly.

The datasets held comprise:

  • Retail Prices Index snapshot 1987-2003. Described on transfer as 'recent' RPI data. The RPI dataset generally goes back to 1987; although some of the data (e.g. on pensioner indices) may go back to an earlier date.
  • Consumer Prices Index snapshot 1988-2003. This generally only goes back to 1996, although some earlier data going back to 1988 has been reconstructed from available data.
  • Historic Retail Prices Index 1947-2004. This is an analysis of trends in inflation since 1947, as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI). It contains some data from 1914.

The datasets in this series are available to download. Links to individual datasets can be found at piece level.

Date: 1947-2004

Application software: WinCSDB (a large Ingres database), and the ONS' central store of socio-economic time series. The WinCSDB was previously called the Central Shared Database. WinCSDB was used for the inputting and storage of the data in the department. Navidata 3.1 software was used to make the data available to online users though the ONS website.

User Interface: The data was produced for general use by ONS staff using standard PCs. The data was made available to the public who could query the data online using the provided Navidata 3.1 software. The Historic RPI data was made available online to the public as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

Logical structure and schema: Data for the CPI and RPI was originally made available by the Department in two electronic formats: an electronic publication (.pdf file), and the input file used to produce it. The publication contained only a snapshot of the column headings available in the input file. All of the data was available on the ONS website.

The data that was viewable via the Navidata software normally comprised 20 indices, which were treated by NDAD as tables of the dataset. Each index/table has several fields that are called 'series' in Navidata. Each of the 20 tables has a group of 'series' based on a four-character identifier, the CDID.

The Historic RPI data was originally held on the website of the Office for National Statistics website ( in the form of eight Microsoft Excel files. The data was spread across several named worksheets within each spreadsheet. These were treated by NDAD as 42 separate tables.

How data was originally captured and validated: Data for the Retail Prices Index was gathered by local and centralised price collection methods, using field operatives. The Consumer Prices Index contains the same price data, but with different scope and coverage. The Historic RPI data was mostly input manually from paper records, dating back to 1914 or earlier.

Validation performed after transfer: Details of the content and transformation validation checks performed by NDAD on the Consumer and Retail Prices Index datasets are recorded in the Dataset Catalogues.

Related material:

The UK Data Archive holds previously archived RPI and CPI data, as part of its economic releases and time services data, Study Number 4711. This data was archived directly from the ONS website. In 2003, responsibility for doing this passed to the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) at Manchester Information and Associated Services (MIMAS).

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Former reference in The National Archives: CRDA/61
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Office for National Statistics, 1996-

Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, 1970-1996

Physical description: 4 datasets and documentation
Restrictions on use: The Consumer and Retail Prices Index datasets are subject to Crown Copyright; copies may be made for private study and research purposes only.
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

In 2010 the United Kingdom National Digital Archive of Datasets

Custodial history: Originally transferred from Office for National Statistics (ONS), Consumer Prices and General Inflation Division in 2004. The United Kingdom National Digital Archive of Datasets (NDAD) then held the datasets until 2010 when they were transferred to The National Archives (TNA).
Accruals: Further accruals may occur.
Publication note:

Figures from the Indices are published by the Office for National Statistics on a monthly basis on their website in the periodical First Release and the accompanying Briefing Notes. Further details and analysis of results appear in ONS publications such as Focus on Consumer Price Indices, Economic Trends and Labour Market Trends.

Unpublished finding aids:

Extent of documentation: 17 documents, Dates of creation of documentation: 1998-2004

Administrative / biographical background:

The Consumer and Retail Prices Index datasets are compiled and published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The two main consumer price indices in the UK are the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) and the Retail Prices Index (RPI). The Government's inflation target is based on the CPI; the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee sets interest rates to meet this target. The RPI is the more familiar measure of the rate of inflation. Tax allowances, state benefits, pensions and many other payments are often revised in line with the RPI.

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