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Social Justice

The chancellor has made the Sunday Times Rich List – during a major cost of living crisis

Revelations about Rishi Sunak’s wealth come as he faces increasing pressure to support households who are struggling to afford food.

People are having to steal soap, a pensioner is riding buses all day to keep warm and millions of parents are struggling to feed their children. Meanwhile, the politician in charge of offering support to them has been named on the Sunday Times Rich List.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has become the first frontline politician to appear on the annual list, which celebrates the wealthiest people in society.

This year, the top 250 richest people on it have amassed more wealth than the entire 1,000 entries that appeared on the 2017 version. 

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Sunak, and his wife Akshata Murty, appear at number 222 on the list with a combined wealth estimated at £730 million. It comes as Sunak is facing increasing pressure to offer support to struggling households amid the worst cost of living crisis the UK has seen for decades. Critics say the Treasury has so far failed to help the very poorest.

This week there has been discussions about whether police should show discretion if someone is caught stealing food. A police chief was supportive of the idea, but policing minister Kit Malthouse was not.

George Dibbs of think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research said the list demonstrated the need to “redistribute the wealth gains of the richest to pay for higher social security benefits for those who most need them”.

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The 2022 list marks the first time since 1989 (when it was first published) that a frontline politician has appeared in the annual rankings. 

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Earlier in the year, Sunak and Murty faced controversy after it was revealed she was registered as having “non-dom” status, which allows people born overseas to only pay tax on earnings made in the country where they reside, i.e. the UK.

A number of charities and business leaders have pleaded with the chancellor for more assistance, with Tony Danker, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) saying this week that Sunak should offer more help to those struggling. 

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At a CBI dinner earlier this week, Sunak said the public faced “tough” months ahead.

“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,” Sunak said. 

The 2022 Rich List also featured more billionaires than ever before, underscoring widening economic inequality in the UK.

A total of 177 billionaires appeared on this year’s list – six more than in 2021.

Dibbs said of the list: “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. 

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

“We need to look urgently at ways to support the households most exposed by this new price crisis, and that should include redistributing the wealth gains of the richest to pay for higher social security benefits for those who most need them.”

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