Stephen Addison London

Britain’s wealthiest people are richer than they have ever been, with a combined fortune of £518.9 billion (R9.03 trillion), equivalent to a third of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to an annual study.

This year’s Sunday Times Rich List shows that the thousand richest men and women have surged to new heights, with their combined wealth rising by 15.4 percent on last year’s total of £449.6bn.

They include television chef Jamie Oliver, former Tesco supermarket boss Terry Leahy and, in the under-30s list, Harry Potter star Emma Watson.

“I’ve never seen such a phenomenal rise in personal wealth as the growth in the fortunes of Britain’s 1 000 richest people over the past year,” said Philip Beresford, who has compiled the list since 1989.

“The richest people in Britain have never had it so good. The challenge now for the government and the rich themselves is to see this wealth percolate downwards and outwards, out of London and towards the north and west of the country.”

Their enormous wealth contrasts sharply with the stretched finances of ordinary Britons, many of whom are struggling to cope with the effects of five years of austerity.

A week earlier, the first part of the Rich List found the number of billionaires living in the UK had risen to more than 100 for the first time, with Indian-born brothers Sri and Gopi Hinduja the country’s richest people with a combined £11.9bn.

They replaced Russian business magnate Alisher Usmanov at the top after the Arsenal football club shareholder dropped a place as his fortune fell to £10.65bn.

Only three of the top 20 are British, with David and Frederick Barclay, the publishers and property developers, the only self-made billionaires in this group. The richest Briton, the Duke of Westminster, is ranked 10th with a property-based fortune of £8.5bn.

The super-rich want to live in Britain because of “culture, financial services, nice tax regime, good education for their kids and a nice lifestyle where they meet their friends”, Beresford said.

The second part of the list showed the fortune of Jamie and Jools Oliver increased by £90 million to £240m, ranking them equal 396, on the strength of their restaurant chain and related businesses.

Queen Elizabeth added £10m to her personal wealth and is now ranked equal 285th with £330m. – Reuters