Wealth of UK’s richest growing four times faster than the poorest, official figures show

Total wealth surges to £14.6 trillion with those at the top enjoying largest gains

Ben Chapman
Thursday 05 December 2019 15:56
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Over the longer term, average wealth at the bottom has stagnated while the wealthiest have enjoyed significant gains
Over the longer term, average wealth at the bottom has stagnated while the wealthiest have enjoyed significant gains

Britain’s richest people are seeing their wealth grow almost four times faster than the poorest, and London is enjoying rapid growth while other regions fall behind, official figures show.

Total UK wealth surged 13 per cent to £14.6 trillion between 2016 and 2018 with rising property values and pension pots accounting for most of the gains, the Office for National Statistics said.

The richest tenth of the population saw their wealth rise 11 per cent while the poorest experienced a 3 per cent gain.

Over the longer term, average wealth at the bottom has stagnated while the wealthiest have enjoyed significant gains. A person in the bottom tenth had total wealth – including property, pension, financial assets and possessions – of £3,700 in 2018, around £100 less than they had in 2010.

For the top tenth, wealth jumped by more than a third over the same period, from an average of £1.8m in 2010 to £2.5m in 2018. This group holds 45 per cent of all wealth in the UK, while the poorest 10 per cent hold just 2 per cent.

Looking just at financial and property wealth, which strips out physical possessions and pensions, the lowest tenth of the population have debts that exceed their assets and have been going further into the red. On average they had negative financial and property wealth of £4,900 in 2018, up from £3,900 in 2014.

The data also highlights a growing regional divide. Total wealth in London has jumped almost 80 per cent since 2008 while the east midlands and northeast are both more than 10 per cent down. London also has the largest divide between wealthy and poor citizens of any UK region.

Robert Palmer, executive director of Tax Justice UK, said: “These figures reveal that wealth inequality has increased over the past decade and remains stubbornly high. This has real-world consequences. Access to wealth gives you more life opportunities and better health.”

“Inequality has been a major talking point in this election. Taxing wealth more has to be part of the solution if we are to get the public services voters consistently say they want.”

The wealth boom has not been mirrored in wage growth, with average wages still slightly below a peak reached in 2008. Household debt, including loans and credit cards, is also rising, up 11 per cent to £119bn in the two years to March 2018.

George Bangham, research analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “While incomes have stagnated over the past decade, our national wealth has continued to boom.

“But the UK’s £14.6 trillion of wealth is highly concentrated and unequally spread. The richest 10 per cent of households have benefitted most from the recent wealth boom, and own almost half of the nation’s wealth.

“In contrast, typical households in parts of the north and midlands are still no wealthier than they were before the financial crisis.

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