Report out today shows the UK’s five richest families are wealthier than the poorest 20% of the population combined

Posted by Rachel George Digital Campaigns Manager

17th Mar 2014

The UK's 5 richest families own more wealth than 12.6 million of us together

It's been a long time since stately homes ruled the British countryside, but it seems wealth is once again congregating in the safes of a new UK elite, and at a growing rate. 

New figures published today by Oxfam show how the gap between rich and poor has grown significantly in the past twenty years, to the extent that just five families are now wealthier than the poorest 20% of the UK population combined. 

This 20% of Britons - 12.6 million people - is almost the same number as those living below the UK poverty line. This is when a household earns less than 60% of the median UK income of £26,500 per year. This section of society includes 3.5 million children and 1.6 million pensioners, according to the government's own statistics. And with living standards predicted to remain below pre-financial crash levels until after 2015, it seems inequality in the UK is here to stay. 

Why does this matter? 

In a word: power. This inequality hasn't sprung up overnight - it's been influenced, both in policy and narrative, through connections between big businesses, wealthy individuals and successive governments. In this new order, people who have fallen on hard times become "shirkers", while those who amass untouchable fortunes, often hoarded in tax havens, are "job creators". No prizes for guessing which group wields more political sway.

"Increasing inequality is a sign of economic failure rather than success," said Ben Phillips, Oxfam's Director of Campaigns and Policy. "It's far from inevitable - it's a result of political choices that can be reversed. It's time for our leaders to stand up and be counted on this issue." 

What's Oxfam's action plan? 

All parties need to focus on reducing inequality. To do this, they must: 

  • Outline a long-term strategy for raising the minimum wage to a living wage 
  • Clamp down on tax dodgers and improve government capacity to tackle tax evasion 
  • Tackle unfair tax rules and ensure those who can afford it are paying their fair share 
  • Implement a financial transactions tax or "Robin Hood Tax" 
  • Use revenue from progressive taxation to prevent long-term damage caused by cuts to public services and social security 
  • Support the provision of universal affordable childcare 
  • Audit policy - including 2015 Party Manifestos - to ensure they improve equality. 

As a first step, we are calling on the Government to take tough action to tackle tax dodging as part of this week's Budget (if you're George, please do read our inequality briefing A Tale of Two Britains for the full details). 

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Blog post written by Rachel George

Digital Campaigns Manager

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