It would not have been possible for anybody to have ignored the fact that The Sunday Times published last week their so-called “Rich List”. It has been trailed for months and is still being heavily publicised every day by The Times. I always get excited reading this magazine – then get bored with it very quickly. In fact, more than bored. Actually I become very disenchanted reading it. The wealth of the people listed in this magazine – albeit it is probably largely inaccurate is quoted in telephone numbers. How can anybody living with a mortgage, trying to survive month to month relate to a “wealth figue “ quoted in multiple billions”
One of the reasons that it can be interesting to read the Rich List – and sometimes part of the fun of it - is spotting how many Jewish people there may be in the list. There are a number! There are also a number in one of the sub-lists – which is the “Giving” List, and there are many people in this list who are giving away very substantial amounts of money. Yet as a proportion of our overall wealth, we do not give away as much as the “rich” give away in the United States – one of the reasons for this is that the Tax Breaks for Giving in America are more generous than they are here.
Last year’s Dilnot Commission made a number of important recommendations to the Government on how to deal with the perennial and unsolved problem of funding long term care of older people. After much procrastination the government have announced that they will (sort of) in due course probably be implementing a number of the recommendations. Albeit as I have said before in these columns, all that glitters is not gold and there is still a lot of small print to be worked out and to be read. Dilnot spoke in terms of a figure of £1.7m being the annual “price tag” for implementation. The combined wealth of those in the Rich List is £450bn. One figure has nothing to do with the other – ie £450bn against £1.7m. However it does prompt one to think of the wider question of distribution of wealth and societal priorities. If it is true that all it takes to deal in a fairly satisfactory manner with the problem of funding for older people is £1.7bn, why on earth are we not addressing it? In relative terms, this is a very small amount and certainly as Andrew Dilnot himself contends it is a very small proportion of GDP. Yet successive governments have stalled and fudged for decades for the simple reason they feel the problem is too big to deal with – and presumably they feel that dealing with it is in itself not going to be a vote-winner.
It is tempting to suggest that a mere £1.7m could in some way be eked out of our Defence budget or we could temporarily reduce the ring fencing of foreign aid. This is unlikely to happen and the government is unlikely to meet the Dilnot recommendations in full – but they are saying that perhaps one day, maybe in 2016, something might happen. So I guess we should really be very very grateful.