Consumer prices rose 1.6 percent compared with a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said, above economists' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.4 percent rise and up from 1.2 percent in November.
Retail price inflation rose by 2.5 percent in December compared with the same month in 2015, the sharpest increase since July 2014.
Excluding oil prices and other volatile components such as food, core consumer price inflation was 1.6 percent, compared with economists' expectations for 1.5 percent.
Data on factory gate prices underscored the inflationary pressures in the pipeline. Output prices rose 2.7 percent, their fastest annual rise since March 2012.
Prices paid by factories for materials and energy rose by 15.8 percent, the biggest jump since September 2011.
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