Wealth gap between rich and poor has widened since 1997

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Indy Politics

A report by the Government's own statisticians shows the difference in disposable income between the richest and poorest has grown by £91 a week since the mid-1990s.

The best off 10 per cent of people had a household income of £658 or more a week in 2002/2003, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report.

That compares to just £164 a week or less for the poorest 10 per cent.

Since the mid-1990s disposable income grew by over a fifth for both groups. However, these increases resulted in a rise of £119 per week for the best off compared with a rise of £28 per week for the poorest.

The report said: "This shows that the absolute difference in the average weekly income has continued to widen."

The full report was published six months ago. But the ONS released a new summary yesterday. The Tories seized on the figures.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said: "This report shows exactly why we need a new approach to welfare reform. There is mounting evidence that voluntary enterprises and charities are much better at helping unemployed people into lasting jobs, at less cost to the taxpayer, than existing government programmes.

"Labour's agenda on poverty has been, at best, only partially successful. Their commitment to eradicating poverty is undoubtedly genuine, but the reality is that their rhetoric has exceeded their achievements."