Wealth of richest doubles as others struggle financially

By Savi Hensman
April 27, 2015

The total wealth of Britain’s richest 1000 individuals and families has more than doubled over ten years, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. Meanwhile many ordinary people have been badly affected by low pay and cuts.

The 1000 wealthiest now have a combined fortune of £547 billion – not including bank accounts – compared to just under £250 billion in 2005. The list, published in late April, includes 117 billionaires, an increase from 104 last year (2014).

In contrast, the poorest 40 per cent of households have only £452 billion in total, according to the Equality Trust. Stagnating wages, high rents and bills and ‘austerity’ measures mean that many ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet.

Overall, the income gap has been increasing rapidly. Pay for top company directors has gone up by 40 per cent since 2009, while average pay has dropped by nine per cent in real terms, according to Inequality Briefing information in March.

This does not take account of the full impact of cuts in public services and social security, which may not be apparent until an individual or family experiences a crisis.

For example, suppose you have been working and paying tax and national insurance practically all your adult life, as well as contributing to society in other ways. If you have a serious road accident or stroke and become mobility-impaired, you might expect to get therapy afterwards to aid your recovery, and help meanwhile with essential tasks, like being able to get a drink of water on a hot afternoon.

But whether you get such help in practice depends on where you live and how much the budget is overspent. You may have to pay privately for what would at one time have been free.

Indeed, if you can no longer do your job, the money you rely on to pay for food and heating may be cut off for weeks or longer, so that you have to turn to a foodbank to survive. Many people who are too sick to work or unemployed face harsh sanctions.

Even those who are not especially badly off may find that the shutdown of local facilities affects their quality of life, especially in terms of community wellbeing. Being able to see pictures of, or read about, the spectacular lifestyles of the super-rich may not be much of a consolation.

If government policies continue along the same lines over the next few years, financial and social divisions are likely to deepen further. People across Britain must decide whether that is what they really want.

* More on the issues in the 2015 General Election from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015


© Savitri Hensman is a widely published Christian commentator on politics, welfare, religion and more. An Ekklesia associate, she works in the equalities and care sector.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.