UK Chancellor joins rich list as Brits face “tough” months ahead

May 24, 2022 - 10:50

As Britons suffer from record inflation levels, the British Chancellor in charge of limiting the effects of skyrocketing prices of food items and other services has been ranked amongst the UK’s most wealthiest.

Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty have joined the UK rich list with a combined fortune of £730 million. 

The Chancellor becomes the first frontline politician in the Sunday Times rankings just days after warning consumers that the “next few months will be tough” for them. 

As the cost of living intensifies, critics say Sunak is not the man to lead the country out of the economic crisis as he is out of touch with how ordinary households are suffering. 

Sunak, a former hedge fund manager, and his Indian heiress wife, Akshata Murty, were named on the Sunday Times rich list as the 222nd wealthiest persons in the UK.

Since the inception of the annual rich list in 1989, Sunak’s inclusion as the first frontline politician is likely to increase pressure on the Chancellor to do more to help households struggling with inflation, which hit 9% in April, its highest level in 40 years, and soaring energy bills made worse by the crisis in Ukraine. 

The British Chancellor attended a Confederation of British Industry dinner, where he said “there is no measure any government could take, no law we could pass, that can make these global forces disappear overnight. The next few months will be tough. But where we can act, we will.”

To make matters worse, Sunak and Murty’s entry into the Sunday Times rich list follows revelations last month that the Chancellor’s wife had claimed non-domiciled status to legally not pay tax on annual dividends she receives from a £690m stake in the IT company Infosys, founded by her billionaire father.

After a barrage of public outrage, Murty bowed to pressure to pay UK taxes, claiming she realized many people felt her tax arrangements were not “compatible with my husband’s job as chancellor”.

The couple own a property portfolio of four houses worth an estimated £15 million including a £5 million Santa Monica penthouse overlooking the beach.

The development comes as many sectors in British society are struggling to make ends meet, as the cost of living crisis spirals out of control.

Among the most recently affected is staff working for the medical sector where it emerged hospitals in the UK are setting up food banks for National Health Service (NHS) workers.

After being labeled as the “heroes of the pandemic” many healthcare staff now cannot afford to pay rent, food, or fuel, while thousands are considering leaving the profession over the lack of any significant pay rise.

As a result, at least six NHS trusts have been forced to set up food banks or food voucher programs to help their staff cope with the rising costs of living.

The chair of healthcare and workforce modeling at London South Bank University, Professor Alison Leary, told British media that he has been approached by several NHS organizations who he said are “very concerned” about the impact of the rising living costs.

“Some are looking into starting food exchanges or food banks, and others are looking at other ways to help, for example with the costs of transport,” he said.

The chair of the Royal College of Nursing’s Trade Union Committee, Graham Revie, also says health  workers are being hit hard by rising fuel prices, and some are “struggling to feed their families.”

He has also warned that every year “thousands” of nurses are leaving their jobs, citing wages as among the key reasons.

“This is an outrageous state of affairs, and a big admission that the NHS knows how its workers are struggling while the government denies them fair pay,” Revie added.

According to the Cavell Nurses’ Trust, which supports nurses, midwives, and health assistants in financial difficulties, there has been a 140 percent increase in the number of medical workers seeking help in the first four months of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021.
However, the British Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, says it was “fantastic” news that Sunak had joined the rich list, and dismissed suggestions that his vast wealth meant he was out of touch with people’s day-to-day struggles to make ends meet.

The UK now has a record 177 billionaires, up six on 2021. Their combined wealth is up 9.4 percent to a record £653 billion.

The head of the Centre for Economic Justice at the Institute for Public Policy Research George Dibbs, says the coronavirus pandemic had allowed already extremely wealthy people to increase their fortunes while the savings of the poorest people were wiped out.

“As we enter a once-in-a-generation cost of living crisis, the Sunday Times rich list shows us again that vast wealth often begets more wealth. That has proved particularly true during the pandemic, when the wealthiest accumulated more wealth than poorer people, who saved nothing,” he said. 

“Now there are more billionaires in the UK than ever before and the collective wealth of the richest has grown again.”

Julia Davies, a founding member of Patriotic Millionaires UK, a group of super-rich people calling for the introduction of a wealth tax, said the list showed an “obscene concentration of wealth while millions struggle with simply living.”

Davies warned “the fact that our chancellor now joins the ranks of the richest people in the UK, while he and the government refuse to consider taxing wealth over work, is a shocking insight into our political system.”

She admits that “we have repeatedly asked the chancellor to raise taxes on us, the wealthiest people in society. His appearance on the rich list makes it very clear why he’s not listening.”

“As the Bank of England warns of apocalyptic food price rises, two million people are skipping meals, and a third of people can’t afford the essentials. Meanwhile, the rich, as always, are sitting pretty. This disparity has to be fixed. It is political and economic negligence that our politicians are not focused on dealing with the extreme wealth gap at a time of national economic emergency,” she added. 

The living cost crisis has recently also been reflected in an alarming rise in the number of homeless British army veterans.

Since March 2020, organizations have reported a 50 percent jump in the number of former Armed Services personnel becoming homeless, or at risk of becoming so.

The already worrying numbers are set to rise further as the cost of living skyrockets.

At least 12 charities have called on government to intervene as part of an initiative dubbed “No Homeless Veterans Campaign”, which calls on authorities to take more responsibility in identifying and helping homeless veterans.

Tina Fairbrass, a mother-of-one has been reported in British media as complaining about the hardship in trying to find a new home for her and her three-year-old daughter.

Fairbrass is said to have joined the Royal Navy in 1989 and became homeless years later after fleeing domestic abuse.

She says “joining the Royal Navy was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” but added “I could never have imagined that years later, with a three-year-old daughter in tow, I would end up homeless and alone without any help.”

Dibbs has called on Sunak to take urgent measures and introduce taxes “redistributing the wealth gains of the richest to pay for higher social security benefits for those who most need them.”

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