Britain’s billionaires have seen their net worth more than double since the recession, with the richest 1,000 families now controlling a total of £658bn.
While average UK incomes have yet to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with tens of thousands still flocking to food banks, the financial elite have emerged not only with their fortunes intact, but holding a larger than ever slice of the cake.
Their assets have increased from £258bn in 2009, a rise of more than 132%. The past 12 months saw the biggest bounce for the UK super-rich in seven years, and London now has 80 billionaires, up from 72 last year – more than any other world city. And their wealth just keeps on going up. In the past year the wealth of the UK’s 1,000 richest people rose by another 14% to £658 billion, according to the list published today. That means a three fold increase in the top 1000 multi-millionaires and billionaires in the UK. How are you doing?
The richest people on the list are brothers Sri and Gopi Hinduja, who are investors in property, healthcare (that would be the privatised parts of the NHS) and oil and gas, and top the list with £16.2 billion, which is £3.2 billion more than the year before. Yes they made an extra £3.2 billion in just one year. They certainly know where the magic money tree is.
In contrast to the soaring incomes of the richest, the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank says average household incomes have only recently recovered from the banking crash, leaving them no better off than in 2008. Median household income in the most recent financial year was at around the same level as it was in 2007–08 before the recession, though still more than 2% below its 2009–10 peak.
The richest 1,000 families have more money than the poorest 40% of British households combined, according to the Equality Trust. Last year they saw their wealth increase by £28bn, the equivalent of £77m a day.
The only British-born billionaire in the top 10 is Hugh Grosvenor, 26. who became the world’s richest under-30 when he inherited his father’s estate last year. That was a completely tax free inheritance. Nothing nasty like inheritance tax for him.
The annual increase is enough to foot the nation’s council tax bills for a year, provide nearly 2 million living-wage jobs for a year or 1 million jobs paid at the average full-time wage of £27,195, said the trust.
The director, Duncan Exley, commented: “Inequality at this scale is hugely damaging for society. Multiple studies show that living in a more unequal country means you’re more likely to have poorer education, suffer from poor mental health, trust people less, be the victim of violent crime and even die earlier.”
Two UK business families were among the year’s biggest gainers. Galen and George Weston, the British born Anglo-Canadians who own Selfridges department store and Associated British Foods, makers of Twinings and Ovaltine, shot into third place with a £3.7bn rise. Meanwhile, Denise Coates and family, who control bookmakers Bet365, are thought to have doubled their holdings to £2.35bn . No doubt fuled by an increase in personal debt for those foolish or desperate enough to try their luck against the bookies.
Sir James Dyson and family jumped from 29th to joint 22nd place, with a £500m lift pushing their reported wealth to £3.5bn. Dyson now holds 25,000 acres of land, having recently bought a 1,200-hectare (3,000-acre) estate in Lincolnshire, making him a bigger landlord than the Queen. Brexit supporter Sir James Dyson (you may have one of his vacuums) was the first self-made Brit to break the £5 billion barrier by increasing his wealth to £7.8 billion.
Adele remained Britain’s wealthiest ever female musician by earning £40 million in the past year alone, bringing her wealth to £125 million. You may remember this multi-millionaire complaining about her tax bill – see here.
Richard Branson returned to the top 20 with a reported £500m increase to £4.1bn, thanks in part to rail: Virgin Trains won an extension on its west coast franchise and jointly secured the right to operate in the past year the east coast line. Businesses that in any other country would belong to the people not an absent from the UK billionaire. That’s not to mention the profits he is making from the NHS via his Virgin Health company. Who said the welfare state was a bad thing. Certainly not Branson. To him it’s a cash cow.
While homegrown fortunes are faring well, the Rich List remains dominated by entrepreneurs from outside the UK – just five of the top 20 fortunes are in the hands of British-born individuals. Attracted by ever increasing property prices and the non-dom laws which allow UK residents with foreign passports to shelter their offshore assets from tax, the world’s super-rich are still flocking to London. Of the 117 billionaires who feature in the list, only 62 are British.
Meanwhile the rest of the 60 million population face another day of diminishing personal wealth, life chances and prospects. Not to mention mounting personal debt, homelessness ans possibly living in a fire trap. And in case you forgot the Tories have spent the years since 2010 punishing the rest of us for the actions of these people. We suffer austerity. They just keep taking from that magic money tree.