Redistributing property empires of Britain’s ultra-rich families would be as popular as energy price freeze

Oxfam has just reported that Britain’s richest 5 families are wealthier than 12.6 Britons who make up a fifth of the entire UK population.   The latest survey from Forbes magazine shows that these 5 fortunes are heavily based on property rather than entrepreneurial innovation.   The families listed are those of the Duke of Westminster (who owns 190 acres of prime real estate in Belgravia, London), the property magnates David and Simon Reuben, the Hinduja brothers, the Cadogan family whose wealth has always traditionally come from property, and (the one exception) the Sports Direct investor Mike Ashley.   Their combined wealth works out at £28.2bn, an average per family of £5.6bn each.   The collective wealth of the poorest 12 million Britons however comes to only £2,230 each.   Thus the wealth of the richest 5 families is 2.5 million times greater than that of the bottom fifth.    This is grotesque: so what should be done about it?

The first requirement is obviously a wealth tax aimed primarily at the super-rich 1% (a total of 307,000 persons).   Dependent on the levy rate applied, it could raise £10-15bn a year and likely considerably more.   It would need to be applied in conjunction with three other measures.   One is a Financial Transaction Tax pitched, initially at least, at some 0.01% of the value of the transaction, to rebalance tax between an under-taxed financial sector and an over-taxed industrial sector.   Second is a real crackdown on tax avoidance by, in the case of individuals, requiring all tax havens in Britain’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories to identify all British citizens holding accounts there, and in the case of corporations, requiring all multinationals to submit accounts based on country-by-country reporting of their activities.   Third is ending the absurd corruption of the tax system whereby one-fifth of big businesses now pay no tax at all and more than half pay less than £10m a year.

This may be seen by some as whistling in the wind since after 30 years of neoliberal free markets capitalism the super-rich are often regarded as beyond the reach of the taxman.   But the worm is beginning to turn partly because the increasing excesses of inequality in an era of austerity are seen as intolerable.   More than that, a recent referendum is Switzerland – one of the most conservative countries in the West – only failed by a very narrow margin to cap top executives’ pay at 12 times the lowest earner in a company.   If that option with mandatory effect were now introduced in the UK, it would probably pass.

Labour is already committed to raise the minimum wage and to incentivise companies to go further with the Living Wage, which would likely raise the wage floor for around 3 million low-paid workers.   Two other more far-reaching measures are also needed.   One is to shift the balance of bargaining power in favour of the workforce to counter the excess of corporate power, and the other is to make clear that full employment will be a central goal of economic policy for the next Labour government.

3 thoughts on “Redistributing property empires of Britain’s ultra-rich families would be as popular as energy price freeze

  1. but is ed singing from the same hyme sheet it seems he off chasing middle class ideas were they fical will see him off but saying and putting this into action if ones in power is another you could go for that promising off then like cams press that delete button jeff3

  2. The spread of the wealth needs to structurally change certainly, but it isn’t simply the ‘super rich’ that are the problem. Just how many houses does Michael own? Well over a dozen I’ve heard. So sadly he feeds off the work of others in just the same fashion as the mega rich, it really doesn’t make much difference how wealth is accrued when the result is always parasitism of those less fortunate.

    Landlords can convince themselves they’re offering a needed service but until we escape the current system, his ‘progressive’ reactions to the system are laughable considering his landlord status. It’s simply a new-feudalism, he owns the property and his serfs pay rent to their lord…

  3. The British people are being bled dry to fund a so called improvement to the economy. This has led to a claim for money from the eu!!!!
    Managers and bankers can increase their own pay, so they do not see any austerity. Tax should be a means of balancing the complete imbalance of real workers low pay against extreme high pay of those others. Reduce tax at the lowest and increase tax on the high receivers.
    No-one is worth the huge salaries and bonuses received by the scroungers at the top. Britain is corrupt.

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