UK inequality, the rich continue to get richer


   By a Newsnet reporter  

New figures show the number of millionaire households in the UK has increased by almost a quarter as increasing amounts of wealth are concentrated in the south of England.

Research published by the Boston Consulting Group on global wealth shows the UK has 509,000 millionaire households, compared to 411,000 last year, which is more than any other European country.

The Office for National Statistics have published a report on Regional Distribution of Wealth across the UK which clearly shows a concentration of wealth in the south of England, with Scotland having the lowest percentage share of the wealthiest households.

The gap between richest and poorest in the UK is already one of the widest in the developed world.  The new figures show that the gap is continuing to widen as the economic policies of successive UK governments disproportionately benefit the richest in society.

In 2011 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development released figures which showed that said that the wealthiest tenth of society in the UK now earn 12 times as much as the poorest, up from eight times as much in the 1980s and the amount of national income which goes into the pockets of the richest 1% has more than doubled in the same period.  The richest 1% now account for 14% of total annual income in the UK.

The trend towards a more yawning gap between the richest and poorest has been evident under both Conservative and Labour governments, casting doubt on Labour’s claim to be the party of redistribution. 

Using a measurement which works out how well income is distributed throughout society, known as the Gini coefficient, the OECD found that since 1975 inequality has risen faster in Britain than in any other country, a finding which was also backed up by the Scottish Government’s Fiscal Commission.

Commenting, SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Scotland generates massive wealth – yet the Westminster system means we do not reap the rewards, and instead our most disadvantaged people are facing the brunt of government cuts through unfair measures such as the bedroom tax.

“The Scottish Government’s Fiscal Commission found that, since 1975, income inequality among working age people increased more quickly in the UK than any other OECD country, and that ‘without access to relevant policy levers – particularly taxation and welfare policy – there is little that the Scottish Government can do to address these trends.’

“Scotland brings in wealth through our incredibly successful offshore oil and gas industry, food and drink, engineering, life sciences, the creative sector, renewable energy and tourism – but as a result of economic policies imposed by the UK Government, the majority of wealth is concentrated in the south of England. Increasingly, Westminster’s policies are designed for the millionaires- not the many.

“This means that ordinary people have lower incomes than they should, higher levels of debt and smaller pensions.

“In September 2014, Scotland will have the opportunity to take a different path. With independence, Scotland would become a fairer nation.”