Britain’s has more billionaires than ever before, as the super rich reap the benefits of a “Brexit boom”, according to this year’s Sunday Times Rich List.
There are now a record 134 billionaires based in the UK, 14 more than the previous highest total. Fifteen years ago members of the exclusive club were far fewer at 21.
The annual rich list showed the wealthiest 1,000 individuals and families in Britain have combined wealth of £658bn, up from £575bn last year despite fears that the Brexit vote in June would plunge the UK economy into a fresh turmoil.
“While many of us worried about the outcome of the EU referendum, many of Britain’s richest people just kept calm and carried on making billions,” said Robert Watts, compiler of the rich list.
Brothers Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja are the richest people in the UK, with a fortune of £16.2bn, up from £13bn and second place in 2016’s list. The brothers live in a £300m mansion overlooking St James’s Park in central London. Sri, 81, and Gop, 77 first topped the rich list in 2014 and have made their fortune from a business empire started by their father in Mumbai in 1914.
Today, the Hinduja Group employs more than 70,000 people has global investments in a range of sectors including oil and gas, property, media, and banking. Current projects include the transformation of the Old War Office in Westminster into a luxury hotel.
Speaking last year, Gopi said Brexit could be beneficial to the UK and India. “There will be a greater focus on India and the emerging markets, and, among the emerging markets, India will be the favourites,” he said.
Equality campaigners warned that the jump in the number of UK billionaires showed that Britain’s economy is not working for everyone. The Equality Trust said the £83bn increase in wealth among the richest 1,000 people over the past year could pay the energy bills of all UK households for two and a half years, and would be enough for the grocery bills for all the UK’s food bank users for 56 years.
Wanda Wyporska, the executive director of the trust, said that in the fifth largest economy of the world, a super-rich elite was sitting on mountains of wealth. “The super-rich continue to streak away from the rest of us, while the poorest see their wealth shrink. This is an economy working for the few, not the many. Record numbers of people visited food banks last year, millions are locked out of a decent home, and two-thirds of children in poverty are in working households.
“We know that inequality damages our economy and society, and makes it harder for ordinary people and their children to get on. With the general election fast approaching our politicians need to decide the sort of country they want to build. One where we can all prosper, or one where we’re picking crumbs from the super-rich’s table.”
This year’s rich list was released on the same day as Labour revealed plans to raise taxes on those earning over £80,000 per year.
The Queen topped the first Sunday Times Rich List in 1989 but she was ranked 329 on this year’s list with £360m. In recent years Her Majesty has not made the top 300 because the newspaper no longer counts the royal art collection as a personal asset.
The threshold to make it on to the richest 1,000 list rose to £110m this year, double the threshold of 2009. Back in 1997, £15m of personal wealth was enough to make it into the elite club.
While the wealth of the mega rich rose overall, some saw their fortunes dwindle. Sir Philip and Lady Green slipped 12 places on the rich list to 41 as their wealth fell by £433m over the last year, to almost £2.8bn, following the collapse of BHS that triggered a bitter public row.
Green finally agreed to pay £363m to rescue the BHS pension scheme in February, 10 months after the department store chain collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs. The billionaire tycoon owned BHS for 15 years until he sold it to Dominic Chappell, a former bankrupt, for just £1 in March 2015.
Mike Ashley, founder of Sports Direct and owner of Newcastle United football club, dropped nine places to 54 after his fortune fell by £270m to almost £2.2bn. Ashley’s leadership of Sports Direct came under close scrutiny after a Guardian investigation exposed the poor treatment of warehouse workers.
The Duke of Westminster, 26, tops the young rich list with £9.5bn. He is head of the Grosvenor family, whose land and property empire spans Britain, Europe, Asia and the Americas.
This article was written by Angela Monaghan, for theguardian.com on Sunday 7th May 2017 13.20 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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