Britain’s billionaires see profits soar during pandemic while poorest may see wage rise scrapped

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (left) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson leave 10 Downing Street. Photograph...

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (L) and prime minister Boris Johnson leave 10 Downing Street - Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Britain's billionaires have seen their fortunes soar since lockdown, despite the economy entering recession, and the Treasury reportedly scrapping plans for a minimum wage rise next year.

The value of fortunes for 53 of the UK's billionaires leapt by 14.3% (£26.3 billion) to approximately £211 billion over the past six months, data from Forbes shows.

Since lockdown began the FTSE 100 index of the UK's largest firms has risen more than 17.2% while the US shares are up more than 54%.

Richard Branson, despite calling for a bailout of his airline and others, saw his net worth grow £3.3 billion due to the rising value of shares in Virgin Galactic.

Brexiteer boss of the Ineos chemicals group Jim Ratcliffe saw his fortune increase by half to £13.6 billion after converting part of his business to produce hand sanitiser.

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Mike Ashley, the boss of Sports Direct - accused of profiteering during the pandemic, saw his fortune increase by 22.3% to £2.5 billion.

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Forbes suggests none of the British billionaires in its list saw their fortunes drop as a result of the coronavirus.

That is despite the UK entering a recession in August for the first time in 11 years.

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The gloomy picture has led to reports the Treasury is considering putting an 'emergency break' on the plan for a rise in the minimum wage in April.

Under the proposals the poorest would see minimum wages rise from £8.72 an hour to £9.21.

The Telegraph reports a decision will be made in the Autumn budget, but follows reports from the Low Pay Commission that it believes companies cannot afford having to pay an increased national living wage.

Boris Johnson vowed in the general election to 'level up' the country.

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