Poverty in Wales

Matthew Parris in The Times on 3rd January 2013 commented on Wales:

Wales and Gaza. “My Week: Who would have thought this part of the UK was so poor?

For 2013, more facts. Opinions you can take or leave but the world is full of unexpected facts. Did you know, for instance, that of the three million people living in Wales there are only some 4,000 top rate taxpayers? And only about 89,000 taxpayers on the 40p rate? Or that one third of the country’s entire income tax revenue comes from about 3 per cent of the population? Fewer than half of Wales’s inhabitants earn enough to pay any tax at all.

Such (to me) unexpected evidence of the relative poverty of this part of the kingdom can be found in Annex D to the financial report by the Silk Commission on devolution in Wales.

I turned to it because I heard on the radio last week that there are 800 millionaires in Gaza. I speculate — go on, prove me wrong — that proportionately more people drive Mercedes Benz cars in Gaza than in Wales.”

The content of the article, which I have quoted in full, surprised Mr Parris and I expect it does most of us. It was followed up in the Daily Mail on 16th January when James Rush headlined:

“Just one in 16 Welsh taxpayers is paying  higher rate of 40 per cent tax,  HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs) figures reveal that 89,000 Welsh taxpayers were on  higher rate of 40p in 2010-11

Meanwhile, the top rate of 50p was paid by  only 4,000 in the same period. Wales Office has said positive signs seen in  recent months with 38,000 more employed than this time last year. Just one in 16 people living in Wales is  paying the higher rate of tax according to the latest Government  statistics.

HM Revenue and Customs show that only 89,000  people in the country pay the 40 per cent rate, proportionally less than in  England where one in 10 are in the bracket.

Meanwhile, the top rate of 50 per cent, on  incomes above £150,000, was paid by only 4,000.

Government forecasters have suggested the  number paying the 40p tax rate, on incomes between £34,000 and £150,000, in  Wales was expected to increase to 108,000 for the last tax year and 117,000 this  year, The Telegraph has reported.

Meanwhile, the overall number of taxpayers  fell during the same period from 1.4 million in 2010-11 to 1.35 million in  2012-13.

A higher proportion of taxpayers in Scotland  paid the 40 per cent rate in 2010-11, with 227,000 people out of 2.67 million  paying that amount.”


This is revealing of attitudes in our society. It is interesting to try to find comparative figures for per capita spending on Health and Education for the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG), and remember we are all funded equally through the Barnett Formula, even after devolution, before the WAG takes it’s top slice. Welsh demographics and internal/migration movements are interestingly summarised here.

Wales on Line comments on 27th Oct 2011: “The changing demographics of Wales will undoubtedly raise increasing economic challenges in the years to come.

With the number of older people predicted to increase by 55% and the number of children forecast to rise by 7% by 2035 the challenge is obvious – those in work will have to support an increasing number of those who are not.”

The National Census  2011 shows that net migration accounts for 90% of the population increase, as opposed to births at 10%. Nearly all areas of Wales saw population growth, and the number of persons per household was virtually half that of the rest of the UK.

So what do you think about Welsh Poverty?  Is the WAG doing the right things, or should it do less, or more? Does the Inverse Care Law apply to whatever the WAG does to try to reduce inequalities? Or does aiming at reducing inequalities, ahead of raising standards and increasing autonomy, lead to a Lowest Common Denominator society where we no longer aspire to excellence. (Rogmans & Laasch) Are we still In Search of excellence? (Peters & Waterman)

Update 21st October 2013 based on BBC News 17th October:

Poorest pupils in Wales fail to match English at school

Doctors want good education for their children…..

Update 15th July 2014. The Economist July 12th in “A Costly Solitude” on Scottish Independence: Wales GVA (Gross Value Added, or output per person) which explains why there is more pressure to ration more in Wales..

This entry was posted in Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

2 thoughts on “Poverty in Wales

  1. Pingback: Wales rations Downs Test: Criticism over NHS Down’s syndrome test availability | NHS reality. An NHS soapbox. Speakers' corner for the NHS.

  2. Pingback: Wales is an unsustainable state: another good reason not to leave the EU. Graphics in support… | NHS reality. An NHS soapbox. Speakers' corner for the NHS.

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