Five families in the UK have more money than the 12 million poorest Britons put together, according to new research.
The gap between the rich and poor has become so wide the bottom fifth of the entire population when combined cannot match their wealth.
New figures by Oxfam warn that the five households have more wealth than the most deprived 12.6 million Britons, almost the same number as those living below the poverty line.
The five are the Duke of Westminster who is worth £7.83 billion, businessmen brothers David and Simon Reuben (£6.93bn), the Hinduja brothers (£6.03bn), Earl Cadogan (£4.16bn) and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley (£3.31bn).
The families’ combined wealth of £28.2bn is more than the poorest fifth of the UK population’s £28.1bn.
Over the past two decades the wealthiest 0.1 per cent have seen their income grow almost four times faster than 90 per cent of the least well off. A wealthy elite has seen their income grow by £24,000 a year. The poorest nine in ten’s income has gone up by just a few pounds a week. The average UK salary is £26,500 a year.
Oxfam’s director of campaigns and policy Ben Phillips said: “Britain is becoming a deeply divided nation, with a wealthy elite who are seeing their incomes spiral up, whilst millions of families are struggling to make ends meet.
“It is deeply worrying these extreme levels of wealth inequality exist in Britain today, where just a handful of people have more money than millions struggling to survive on the breadline.”
Growing numbers are turning to charity food banks at a time when the highest earners have had the biggest tax cuts of any country in the world.
The charity is urging Chancellor George Osborne to target those who can pay, such as companies and individuals who avoid paying their fair share of tax, and raise the minimum wage to a living wage.
Mr Phillips said: “Increasing inequality is a sign of economic failure rather than success. It is far from inevitable – a result of political choices that can be reversed.”
An Oxfam report published ahead of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Working For the Few, revealed the richest 85 people on the planet own the same amount between them as half the world’s population – 3.5 billion people.