The government’s target for the CPI measure of inflation is 2%.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research notes that the annual rate of inflation is at its highest for 17 months, and was above expectations of a rise to 3.5%.
Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, will now have to write to the new chancellor George Osborne to explain why inflation is above target.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that annual inflation was driven by higher prices for clothing and footwear where prices rose by 2.2% between March and April but rose only 0.2% a year ago.
Meanwhile the Retail Prices Index measure of annual inflation, including mortgage payments, has risen to its highest level since July 1991.
For the year to April the RPI was 5.3%, up from 4.4% in March.
The ONS says that as well as higher clothing and footwear prices, the RPI was pushed upward by increased housing costs.
Mortgage interest payments rose by 0.6% this year but fell by 7.7% a year ago following the cut to Bank of England base rate from 1% to 0.5%.
RPIX inflation, which measures the same items as the RPI but without mortgage interest payments, was 5.4% in April up from 4.8% in March.
The CPI shows that the UK inflation rate in March at 3.4% was above the provisional figure for the European Union at 1.9%.
Darren Cook, spokesman for Moneyfacts.co.uk, says: “Rises in the rate of inflation continue to antagonise savers who are already struggling to achieve a competitive rate of return on their money.
“Basic rate tax payers need to earn 4.63% just to break even, while higher rate tax payers need to earn 6.17% – a level that is only available on a handful of products.”
He adds: “A spiralling inflation rate, which could be aggravated by the predicted rise in VAT can only point towards a Bank base rate increase sooner rather than later.”