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Tough year for rich with record rise in billionaires

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Issue 2756

fat cat

According to the The Sunday Times Rich List the combined wealth of Britain’s 250 richest people has grown by a sixth in the past year. It is up from £566 billion to £658 billion.

The number of billionaires has jumped from 147 to a record 171.

At the same time some 700,000 people have been pushed into poverty by the pandemic.

More than half of the wealth of the top 2,000 people (£508 billion) is ­concentrated among the richest 100.

The 171 billionaires have a combined wealth of £597 billion.

A one-off flat tax of 5 percent on all their wealth over a billion pounds would raise £19 billion, even accounting for avoidance and the cost of setting up the scheme.

A 5 percent tax would not leave Britain’s billionaires out of pocket.

The richest person in Britain, Sir Leonard Blavatnik would pay £1.1 billion. Blavatnik’s fortune surged by £7.2 billion to around £23 billion last year. At the “poorer” end, Lord Sugar would pay a tax bill of just £10 million from his £1.2 billion fortune.

About 1,800 people have wealth of £100 million or more. Taxing all wealth over £100 million at 10 percent would raise a £69 billion. This would cover the cost of furlough—£61 billion as of April 2021—with cash to spare for 18 new hospitals costing £450 million each.

Despite texting Boris Johnson, James Dyson, meanwhile, slipped back to fourth in the ranking after his wealth only increased by £100 million to £16.3 billion.

Property investors David and Simon Reuben, who reached the second spot after their wealth rose £5.46 billion to £21.46 billion.

Meanwhile, Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, known for owning a large portion of the capital’s prime real estate has seen his wealth fall slightly this year. His fortune has shrunk by £241 million and he now has a mere £10.1 billion.

  1. £23 billion Sir Leonard Blavatnik
  2. £21.46 billion David and Simon Reuben
  3. £17 billion Sri and Gopi Hinduja and family
  4. £16.3 billion Sir James Dyson and family
  5. £14.68 billion Lakshmi Mittal and family
  6. £13.4 billion Alisher Usmanov
  7. £13 billion Kirsten and Jorn Rausing
  8. £12.1 billion Roman Abramovich
  9. £12.01 billion Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken
  10. £11 billion Guy Weston and family

Full marks to the Treasury for its imaginative excuse in not disclosing Sir Tom Scholar’s replies to David Cameron’s texts. Scholar, permanent secretary to the Treasury, was locked out of his phone when an incorrect password was entered several times, meaning it was reset, with all the content wiped.

The Treasury admits that Scholar has met Cameron twice since the ex-PM left office, but it insists there was no need to declare the get-togethers because they were social.

Now officials are refusing to disclose Cameron’s text conversations with Hancock too, saying that to do so as an inquiry is going on could lead, heaven forfend, to “premature public scrutiny”.

Theresa May has netted a quarter of a million pounds for virtual speeches to US audiences since April.

There has, though, been some apparent depreciation, perhaps as international audiences adjust to the reality of a Theresa May ­after‑dinner speech.

Last year she earned £136,000 for a speech. But now she’s on a humble £39,000 per speech.

Covid death rate hidden

The real global death toll from Covid-19 is between 7.1 million and 12.7 million, with a central estimate of 10.2 million. The official figure of 3.3 million represents, at best, a bit less than half the true toll, and at worst only about a quarter of it.

The numbers come from a major analysis in The Economist bosses’ magazine. It attempted to model the level of excess mortality over the course of the pandemic in countries that do not report it.

The magazine says, “Most of the deaths caused by Covid-19 but not attributed to it are found in low and middle income countries.

“Our figures give a death rate for the mostly rich countries of 1.17 times the official number. The estimated death rate for sub-Saharan Africa is 14 times the official number.”

The model suggests India “is seeing between 6,000 and 31,000 excess deaths a day, well in excess of official figures around the 4,000 mark.”

MOD’s £3 billion tank tanks

It is the tank that has cost more than £3 billion with nothing to show for it.

Parliament’s spending watchdog has described as “extraordinary” new payments of nearly £600 million for Ajax light tanks, which the Ministry of Defence rejected as unsafe.

It emerged in 2019 that there were problems with the first batch of an order for 589 Ajax vehicles.

Now, documents released under freedom of information laws show the contractor, America’s General Dynamics, was nevertheless paid £577 million.

Problems with the £5.5 billion programme surfaced in late 2019 when General Dynamics was supposed to have delivered the first 20 vehicles.

The latest round of payments takes the amount spent on the Ajax programme to more than £3.2 billion, according to ministry data.

Technical experts discovered “safety issues”, including excessive vibration that prevented cannons being fired on the move, so the army refused to accept them. Test crews also reported that they were too noisy to sit in.

Boris’s butler brings Tory donor’s food parcels

A butler secretly brought around £27,000 of luxury organic food into Downing Street for the prime minister during the pandemic .

The food was said to be “smuggled” in unmarked bags which included

pre-prepared meals and wine.

Some of the items appeared to have been covered by the wife of a Tory donor. The fancy food was first delivered in May last year, and the drop-offs continued until February.

The meals were “designed to build Boris Johnson’s strength back up after he was admitted to intensive care with coronavirus”.

Daylesford organic farm shops, which is owned by Lady Carole Bamford, put together a healthy food plan and supplied the meals at cost price.

She is married to Lord Bamford, who is the owner of JCB.

His companies have given £10 million to the Tories.

Covering up the cracks in trains?

More than 150 trains built and maintained by Hitachi were pulled from service by Great Western Railway and London North Eastern Railway without warning recently.

Engineers had found cracks on parts of their chassis, causing severe disruption to services.

Why did the cracks happen? There’s one possibility that the media do not seem to be following up. In November 2014 the Kobe Steel firm announced, “that it has begun deliveries of aluminium extruded shapes to Hitachi Ltd for use in the railway car body for the Intercity Express Programme in the United Kingdom.”

Three years later Kobe admitted falsifying quality data, possibly for as long as a decade.

An internal investigation had found 70 cases of data tampering at its Kobelco Research unit.

Isn’t it time to look again at whether those trains really did receive the specifications promised?

Things they say

‘Jenny Harries told us, the same week herd immunity was the official plan, masks are a ‘BAD idea’

Dominic Cummings spills the beans on the government plan for Covid. Harries in now the boss of NHS Test and Trace

‘Preparations and competent people in charge’

Everything would have been OK if Cummings had been in charge—though he sort of was at the time

‘To build up some degree of herd immunity whilst protecting the most vulnerable’

Sir Patrick Vallance told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in March 2020

‘Defund the BBC’

Former Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie, who once put Diana’s covertly recorded private phone calls on a premium-rate line

‘BBC’s Diana shame’

The Sun headline over eight pages on the Diana interview scandal. They ran nine pages on the original interview

‘Their stinking hypocrisy is not lost on us’

The Sun

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