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Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak. Photo: HM Treasury / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked below article

It's a multi-millionaire Chancellor with a huge property empire that is deciding to raise National Insurance and bills while cutting welfare and bankers' taxes, writes Terina Hine

Data released this week by The Food Foundation reported almost five million adults have experienced food insecurity in the last month, with one million having gone for an entire day eating nothing at all. Two million children do not have access to a healthy or affordable diet.

This is all before tax rises, soaring energy costs and food prices fully hit home - in April a 54% increase in energy bills will be accompanied by a 10% National Insurance tax hike - and five million households will be plunged into fuel poverty.

Tesco, the UK’s biggest grocer, has warned food price inflation will reach 5% in spring, once energy price rises filter through. Price hikes will hit the poorest hardest. The poor spend a greater percentage of their income on necessities, and as Jack Munroe exposed, supermarkets target budget and value lines to protect company profit margins. Tesco profit is expected to top £2.6 billion this year, but food prices will still rise.

And it’s not just supermarkets raking in profit as ordinary people worry about eating and heating. BP and Shell have this week announced record gains. For BP profit is at an eight-year high at over £9.4 billion, and Shell has announced the even more eye-watering sum of $19.3 (£14.25) billion. But for all Labour’s calls for a windfall tax, the chancellor’s response has been to protect fuel company profits rather than help households.

So all households will receive a government loan of £200 - the former hedge fund manager hedging that energy prices will fall in the future, tough luck if they don’t. It’s a tiny morsel - household fuel bills alone could rise by £1,000-£2,000 over the year. And it doesnt have to be this way. According to Greenpeace, a windfall tax could raise £4 billion pounds; in France the government has forced the state-operated EDF Energy to limit energy bill hikes to 4%. Other options are available.

That the Tories protect big business is nothing new. We watched during the Covid crisis how those in charge helped themselves while the rest of us tried to help each other, but when the country faces the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, and the chancellor Rishi Sunak, the richest MP in the House of Commons, refuses to offer a lifeline to millions, the contrast develops a more personal note.

Rishi Sunak, keen to take over from his hapless boss in No10, not only has a government salary of £81,932 (MP) + £71,090 (Chancellors salary) but also an estimated net worth of roughly £200 million. Which at least meant he was able to pay for the £400,000 leisure complex he had built at his Yorkshire mansion, without borrowing from Tory donors.

Sunak holds a multi-million pound blind trust, ostensibly to avoid a conflict of interest but in so doing also avoiding transparency, and exactly how much is held offshore is anyone’s guess. In addition he has an extensive property portfolio, which includes his £7 million Kensington home and a nearby flat for family visitors, as well as a house in California and a Georgian mansion in his constituency. But the vast majority of Sunak’s wealth comes from his wife, Aksharta Murty, and her £430 million worth of shares in her father’s Indian tech company, Infosys. Aksharta Murty is wealthier than the Queen.

Infosys has carried out £22m worth of taxpayer-funded work since 2015, the year Sunak was elected an MP, including a £5m deal with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which was awarded in 2018, which ran until 2021.

As a government minister, Sunak must declare any financial interests relevant to his responsibilities. But Sunaks entry only refers to his wife’s ownership of a small, UK-based venture capital company, Catamaran Ventures. (When he became an MP all of Sunak’s shares in Catamaran were transferred to his wife.) There is no mention of Infosys or the multitude of other financial interests and investments she and her family hold. Although the Treasury say all proper procedures were followed, according to the former chair of the standards in public life committee, Sir Alistair Graham, Sunak took the most minimalist approach possible” to meet the codes requirements

Murty also has shares in five other UK based companies, two of which - the luxury outfitters New & Lingwood (dressing gowns at a mere £2,500) and a gyms operator Digme - claimed furlough for their staff during the pandemic.

Rishi Sunak, our multi-millionaire chancellor, with a huge property empire, and billionaire family connections, is responsible for removing the £20 top-up to Universal Credit in October last year from some of the poorest in society. Today he is refusing to provide support to millions struggling to put food on the table or heat their homes. Instead he chooses to protect corporate profit and the wealth of the billionaire class - a political decision not an economic necessity that show exactly where his loyalties lie.

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