The "real" rate of inflation for middle-class households is more than four times the Government's official rate, it has been claimed.

According to Professor Richard Scase, an economist at the University of Kent, inflation for the middle classes is as high as ten per cent due to huge price increases in the cost of energy, council tax and school fees.

Prof Scase believes the Consumer Price Index (CPI) - the benchmark measure for inflation - is meaningless for millions of consumers.

The CPI is compiled by officials at the Office for National Statistics using a "basket" of 650 goods. However economists argue that this method fails to take into account many of the trappings of middle class living.

Prof Scase said soaring oil prices had a greater impact on wealthier consumers who were more likely to have larger houses and so use more energy and bigger cars which use more petrol.

He told the Sunday Telegraph: "On my calculations, if you go out for a meal once a month, if you have something done to your car or house once a year, if you've had two hikes in your gas prices, then inflation for you is running at about ten per cent."

Last week the Government announced that the official rate of inflation fell to 2.4 per cent in July from 2.5 per cent the previous month.

Douglas McWilliams, the chief executive of the Centre for Economic Research, told the paper: "There is a lot of cost push from energy price rises which simply has not been picked up by the CPI."

Meanwhile, research from pensions and investments company Clerical Medical shows that in the past ten years pensioners have seen an average rise of a third (34 per cent) in the cost of the goods and services they purchase.

Over the past year pensioner inflation was 3.9 per cent - the highest rate in a decade.

Rising housing costs have been the main driver behind pensioner inflation with a 73 per cent increase in housing expenditure.