Recession? What recession? Britain's richest get 5% richer


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The Independent Online

The wealth of Britain's richest men and women is back in record territory despite the continuing economic slump.

The combined wealth of Britain's 1,000 richest people rose by 5 per cent to £414bn, beating the previous record set months before the economy crashed in 2008.

According to the Sunday Times rich list published yesterday, this year's combined wealth rose from £395.8bn last year and beat the 2008 record of £412.8bn.

For the seventh year running, the Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal heads the list despite his wealth falling by £4.8bn to £12.7bn this year – a 27 per cent drop.

He was ranked just £385m ahead of Alisher Usmanov, whose Metalloinvest is Russia's biggest iron ore producer. Third on the list is Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, who saw his wealth fall by £800m to £9.5bn this year.

The wealthiest Briton on the list was the Duke of Westminster, in seventh place, with an estimated £7.35bn, thanks to his central London property empire.

Eight lottery millionaires joined the list this year, led by Europe's biggest lottery winners, Colin and Chris Weir, at number 462 with £160m.

Daniel Ek, the owner of the music download site Spotify, made his first appearance at 395, equalling the £190m valuation of David and Victoria Beckham, who themselves added £25m to their combined worth.

The annual Giving List, also released yesterday, showed that Britain's wealthiest people are donating a larger proportion of their wealth than at any time in the past 11 years.

The 100 wealthiest people in Britain gave away more than 1 per cent of their wealth last year. The Yorkshire artist David Hockney shot to the top of the list after he donated £78.1m worth of paintings for charitable causes. His donations are more than double his estimated £34m wealth.

Campaigners warned yesterday that the Government's plans to cap tax relief on charitable donations would reverse this growing generosity from philanthropists.

Under proposals unveiled by the Chancellor George Osborne at the last Budget, tax relief on donations will be capped at £50,000.

John Low, the chief executive of Charities Aid Foundation, which compiled the Giving List with the Sunday Times, said he had concerns about whether philanthropists would be as generous in the coming years.

"The figures we see were generated in a tax regime that was stable and benevolent, when philanthropists were not being vilified as tax avoiders," he said. "I worry that this will be the last decent year."