The rise and rise of the super-rich in the West Midlands continued last year with property being the most popular route to mega-millions.
The Birmingham Post Rich List 2014 reveals that the wealthiest individuals in the region increased their fortunes last year, with three times as many reporting rising wealth than falling.
Ten of the final 50 made their fortunes from property, with a further four in construction, showing bricks and mortar are a good route to uber-wealth.
The rise of the super-rich is consistent with increasing fortunes across the UK, with the number of workers earning more than £1 million a year doubling in just two years.
But commentators are split over whether this is a sign of progress in an economy returning to growth, with some saying action must be taken to improve social mobility, with growth in six and seven-figure salaries outstripping that of ordinary wage-earners.
However, former director general of the Confederation of British Industry Lord Jones of Birmingham said the region reaps the reward of wealth creation – and would be a poorer place without the multi-millionaires.
Lord Jones said: “Would one rather have a situation where there are lots of people creating jobs in the West Midlands and paying tax in the West Midlands, or have them taxed to the point where they say it is too much trouble to do this in the West Midlands?
“When you reduce the number of wealthy people you reduce the number of jobs they create and tax they pay.
“You have got to get a happy medium between paying tax and creating jobs and not plucking too many feathers off the goose so that it ends up flying away.”
Lord Jones said the focus in the West Midlands should be on skills – rather than scape-goating the rich.
However, he believes the super-wealthy have a part to play in this, and that philanthropy should help the wider economy by “up-skilling” the region.
The overall value of the 2014 Rich List has fallen, due to changes in the boundaries we set, although the 50 multi-millionaires on the list still have a combined value of more than £16.6 billion.
Two manufacturing bosses top the list – JCB’s Sir Anthony Bamford and Lord Paul of Marylebone, with Aston Villa chairman Randy Lerner making up a triumvirate of billionaires.
Among the new faces on the list as a result of the geographical shake-up – based around local enterprise partnership boundaries – are Prodrive chairman David Richards, Hotel La Tour backers Alan and Wendy English, Betterware tycoon Andrew Cohen, and Shabir and Afzal Alimahomed, the men behind Euro Packaging.
The value of the top 50 has increased in every year since the recession, and that continued this year, with the wealth of those remaining on the list increasing for 13 individuals, remaining the same for 15, but falling for only four.
However, Birmingham Post columnist Dr Steve McCabe believes a lot of wealth was being created on the back of debt, amid rising property prices and growing consumer borrowing in the UK.
Dr McCabe, director of research degrees for Birmingham City Business School, said the Rich List would be healthier if there was more money being made from manufacturing and less from property.
He said: “I have no problem with people setting up businesses and taking a fair slice, but that is not what this is about.
“As Will Hutton has said recently, these are the same characteristics which led to the last financial crisis, and if we don’t do anything about it then the same will happen again.”
Figures from HM Revenue & Customs last year showed there were 18,000 people earning £1 million or more in the UK in the last tax year. Just two years ago there were only 10,000 in this income bracket. This is a significant increase on the 4,000 income millionaires recorded by the Revenue in the year 2000.
The HMRC figures also show that more people are earning six-figure salaries. An additional 5,000 people now earn between £500,000 and £1 million compared with two years ago; while a further 31,000 earned between £200,000 and £500,000 and 7,000 earned between £150,000 and £200,000.