The wealth of Britain’s super-rich has ballooned over the past year, further widening the chasm between the top 1 per cent and the rest.
The total wealth of the richest 1,000 people increased 5.4 per cent, reaching a record £547bn, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. The increase means the UK is now home to more billionaires per head of population than any other country in the world.
The top 1 per cent are now 100 per cent better off than a decade ago, their collective wealth having increased from £250bn in 2005.
The rise comes as most in the country are only just beginning to see fractional increases in income following the recession, with average incomes growing by less than 2 per cent over the last three years. Median household incomes over the last financial year are at around the same level as in 2007-8, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
There are a record 117 billionaires in the UK. To make it onto the Rich List this year, you needed to have £100m – up from £85m last year.
Len Blavatnik, the owner of Warner Music who made his fortune in Russian oil, came top, with an estimated £13bn. The list was dominated by financiers and entrepreneurs. Last year’s leaders, Sri and Gopi Hinduja, who have interests in various industries and global finance, came second.
A recent study found Britain joint with Italy as the most unequal of the world’s developed nations. A fifth of people live in Britain below the poverty line and life expectancy in some areas is lower than in many developing countries.
The director of the Equality Trust, Duncan Exley said: “There’s always been this idea of trickle-down – that the rich get richer and will bring the rest of the country with them. But the rising tide is not lifting all the boats. These people who are called wealth creators aren’t creating wealth for others; they’re creating it for themselves.
“Most people will be aware their incomes have grown; but it’s only just started to happen since the recession. If it wasn’t for inflation being so low most people would still be seeing their real-terms incomes going down.
“There are an awful lot of people on average incomes who are really struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table and are not sure if they’ll have a job next year.”
A report for Oxfam last year found the five richest families in the UK are wealthier than the bottom 20 per cent of the entire population. The figure means five households have more money than 12.6 million people – almost the same as the number of people below the poverty line in the UK.
Sports Direct defends ‘six strikes’ rule
The working conditions at retailer Sports Direct are under scrutiny, following an undercover TV investigation.
Secret filming by Channel 4’s Dispatches found the threat of being sacked was constant in the company’s Shirebrook depot, with staff named over the warehouse Tannoy for not working fast enough.
The warehouse, where most of the staff are on zero-hour contracts, operates a “six strikes and you’re out” disciplinary procedure, with strikes being given for toilet breaks deemed too long, “excessive chatting” and even for having time off for sickness.
It is estimated that only 300 out of the more than 5,000 workers at the depot have contracts with Sports Direct, which is owned by Mike Ashley, No 22 on this year’s Sunday Times Rich List.
Defending the “six strikes” policy, a spokesman said: “The system takes into consideration a worker’s timekeeping, attendance, conduct and performance-target levels. Where a worker falls below the required standards, the reasons will be discussed and support and training provided.”
Dispatches, 8pm tonight, Ch4Reuse content