The number of UK billionaires has risen by a fifth since the start of the Covid pandemic, according to a report calling for a progressive wealth tax to tackle cost of living inequality.

The charity Equality Trust said government and central bank intervention during the pandemic had allowed the “explosion of billions” in Britain at the expense of the rest of society. , after polluting property values ​​and the stock market.

At the start of the global health emergency three years ago, the Bank of England and other major central banks around the world dropped interest rates to zero and pushed billions of dollars into of the stock market through a bond purchase program. Designed to cushion the edges of the worst recession in three centuries by supporting businesses, households and governments with lower borrowing costs, the report found that it helped boost the The policy is also a cost of ownership, helping to line the pockets of wealthy investors.

The Equality Trust says it has helped increase the number of UK billionaires from 147 in 2020 to 177 this year, with the median billionaire now holding £2bn.

“This sudden explosion of excess wealth is in large part due to measures aimed at reducing the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, as the central bank has pumped billions of dollars into the stock market, which has led to a stock market boom that has lined the pockets well,” said Jo Wittams, executive director of the Equality Trust, in a report published on Monday.

“Although Covid-19 has seen the wealth of billions rise to unprecedented levels, the construction of the economic infrastructure that made this mass accumulation back in four- half a year ago.”

The report found that the number of billionaires in the UK has more than doubled from 15 in 1990, when the Sunday Times first published its rich list, after adjusting for inflation over the period. .

Using inflation-adjusted data from a copy of the Rich List, it said the wealth of British billionaires rose from £53.9bn in the year 1990 to over £653bn by 2022. over the past 32 years,” the report said.

“That we have allowed the richest few to amass the nation’s wealth since the 1990s is a national shame,” Wittams said. “The UK’s record on wealth inequality is appalling, deeply unfair and a real threat to our economy and society.

“Every year we are asked to celebrate the wealthiest people and families in England, while the use of food banks continues to grow, 3.9 million children live in poverty and 6.7 million households struggle to keep warm. his house. Being two sides of the same coin can hardly be said. “

Wittams says inequality isn’t necessarily inevitable. “The right policies can have a positive impact,” he said. “We are calling on the government to tax wealth in line with income, reform the financial sector and end the UK’s role in tax avoidance. Two-thirds of the British public agree that ordinary workers are not getting their fair share of the nation’s wealth and it is time for the government to take action.”

Tax equality campaigners say the government could raise up to £37bn to help pay for public services if it introduces a wealth tax.

Tax Justice UK has called on the government to introduce five tax reforms aimed at the wealthy, who the campaign group said have been “financially sound” during the coronavirus crisis and national lockdown, rather than seeking to save money on further cuts to public services. .

“Tax is a political choice. At a time when most people are suffering from a cost-of-living crisis, further cuts to public services are wrong,” said Tom Peters, head of the UK tax campaign. “The wealthy have done very well financially in recent years. The chancellor should protect public spending through a legal tax on wealth.

The campaign group, which calls for a “fair tax system that actively redistributes wealth to tackle inequality”, proposes five tax reforms.

The measures include equalizing capital gains tax with income tax, scrapping the private tax regime and introducing a 1% tax on the wealth of the wealthiest over £10m – which, they say, could be £10bn for him.

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