Voters back taxing rich more to help pay for NHS, poll finds – as report shows Sunak wealthier than the King

Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty’s personal wealth surged by more than £120m over past year, Sunday Times Rich List suggests

Andy Gregory
Friday 17 May 2024 15:30 BST
Hunt attacks Labour and says he refutes 'myths' the economy is worse under Tories

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Nearly two thirds of voters would be more likely to back a political party committed to higher taxes on the wealthiest to fund the NHS and public services.

The data on public opinion on taxes comes as the annual Sunday Times Rich List found Britain’s 350 richest families hold a combined wealth of £795bn – with the fortune of prime minister Rishi Sunak rising.

Both major political parties clicked into general election campaign mode this week, with Sir Keir Starmer unveiling a Tony Blair-style set of election pledges and chancellor Jeremy Hunt using a speech on Friday to warn that taxes would rise under a Labour government.

But a new FocalData survey commissioned by the group Tax Justice UK suggests that there is public support for major changes to the tax system.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt used a speech on Friday to claim that tax would rise under a Labour government
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt used a speech on Friday to claim that tax would rise under a Labour government (Aaron Chown/PA)

Told that a 1 to 2 per cent ‘mansion tax’ on assets worth over £10m would affect around 20,000 people and could raise up to £22bn a year, 72 per cent of respondents indicated that they would support for such a tax, with 73 per cent backing such a toll to help invest in the NHS.

And 57 per cent of the survey’s 1,011 respondents said they would support charging the same tax rate on income derived from wealth as on income earned from employment.

The findings come as the publication of the Sunday Times Rich List suggested that prime minister Rishi Sunak is now wealthier than King Charles.

The personal fortune of the prime minister and his wife, Akshata Murty, surged by more than £120m over the past year, soaring to £651m in the latest list – as the latter’s shares in her father’s IT firm Infosys grew in value by £108.8m.

This put the Sunak’s wealth above that of the King, whose fortune rose by £10m to hit £610m.

Rishi Sunak’s wealth is greater than that of King Charles
Rishi Sunak’s wealth is greater than that of King Charles (Getty Images)

Responding to the new Rich List, Downing Street insisted Mr Sunak should be judged on his actions and not his personal fortune.

The prime minister’s deputy spokesperson told reporters: “He’s been asked about this before and we’d always point people to the actions that he takes to support people ... That’s his focus and his priority and he should be judged on that.”

The 350 wealthiest individuals and families on the list together held combined wealth of £795.36 billion, according to the new data – which showed the number of British billionaires tumbled slightly from a peak of 177 in 2022 to 165 this year.

Robert Watts, who compiled the rich list, said the findings suggested that “Britain’s billionaire boom has come to an end”, adding: “Many of our home-grown entrepreneurs have seen their fortunes fall and some of the global super rich who came here are moving away.

“Thousands of British livelihoods rely on the super-rich to some extent. We’ll have to wait and see whether we have now reached peak billionaire, and what that means for our economy.”

Responding to the findings indicating support for taxing such individuals more stringently, Tax Justice UK’s head of advocacy and policy Rachael Henry said: “Taxing the wealth of the very richest is an extremely popular policy – a vote winner – and an incredibly sensible way to help fix the country.

“People in Britain are really struggling and so are public services. The NHS is wounded, getting an NHS dentist is akin to a lottery win, and GP surgeries are creaking under pressure. Politicians need to see the wood for the trees and use the tools available to them to inject life back into the country.”

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