Britain: The global capital for billionaires



For the vast majority of British people, the notion that this country is the global capital of what we might term the international “billionaire community” is a startling one. Most of the UK, even most of London, where the majority of the super-rich are based,  are unaware of the existence of such vast wealth co-habiting with the average family.

For most of us, living standards struggle to return to pre-recession levels; public services are more stressed than they have been in decades; much of our energy supply and transport infrastructures are approaching breakdown. Looking through the keyhole at the United Kingdom, so to speak, we might well wonder: who’d want to live in a place like this?

And yet the super-rich obviously do; 104 human beings who are worth more than a thousand million pounds each like it here, for at least part of the time (they are also, naturally, liable to have multiple homes from New York to Hong Kong). These leviathans of wealth make our overpaid corporate bosses look like paupers.

The reasons the super-rich are attracted to the UK are not hard to discern – prominent among them our almost uniquely generous tax treatment of non-domiciled individuals. For those arriving from emerging economies where the traditions of democracy and the rule of law are not yet fully rooted, Britain’s political and (relative) economic stability are also obviously prized. Plus they like London itself, with different nationalities gravitating towards certain already affluent districts.

That billionaires might live in a mansion or penthouse flat only a short limo ride from some of the most deprived districts in Britain is not something they can do very much about. Besides, every great world city has its homelessness and poverty. Statistically, the presence of so much wealth in the same small geographic area as so much deprivation does increase the scale of inequality; but it would be a grave error to think that poverty would be relieved by the forced expulsion or heavier taxation of globally mobile billionaires. They may be a tempting target for a tax attack, and a morally compelling one, but they are swift to flee if they sense danger to their assets.

Some of the super-rich invest in football clubs, in media companies (including the owners of this newspaper) and other concerns.

They employ people, have driven a remarkable construction boom in the capital, and make work for lawyers, accountants, bankers and, of course, tax professionals. The single ­biggest problem the arrival of the billionaires has exacerbated is the shortage of affordable housing for families, particularly in and around London. Here is the trickledown effect in reverse; a general outbidding of the local population. The inflation of house prices reverberates across much of the rest of southern England and the wider country.

We could do nothing about this: housing in London has always been comparatively costly, and we have been through booms before. This one may burn itself out. No doubt if emerging markets stumble, then the billionaires would find even their finances stretched and the capital’s property bubble would duly burst, which should ease the pressure, albeit with a great deal of disruption.

Yet this is hardly an ideal solution, if it even qualifies for that title. Housing policy, especially in London, defined as supplying sufficient accommodation for those who need it, is perhaps the greatest long-term social failure in Britain. The arrival of the billionaires and the absurd prices they pay for a pad merely draws attention to the mess, and provides scapegoats. Finding a solution has so far eluded the Mayor of London, the Bank of England, the Treasury and other interested parties. Maybe they should ask one of those clever entrepreneurial billionaires for some ideas.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London