Sunak’s remarks on diverting funds from ‘deprived urban areas’ divides Tories

Rishi Sunak, who has boasted about diverting funds from “disadvantaged urban areas” to wealthier cities, has divided Tory figures, with Labor calling it “scandalous”.

The Tory leadership hopeful told party members he had begun changing public funding formulas to ensure wealthier cities “get the funding they deserve”.

The New Statesman magazine, which has obtained video footage revealing Mr Sunak’s remarks, said they were made Tories at the base in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on July 29.

It is scandalous that Rishi Sunak openly boasts that he set the rules for funneling taxpayers’ money into prosperous Tory shiresShadow takes secretary Lisa Nandy to the next level

A supporter of the former Chancellor insisted on Saturday that the remarks had been “misunderstood”.

Conservative former Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell, MP for the wealthy Sutton Coldfield seat, told Times Radio: “I’m not saying for a moment that the needs aren’t much greater elsewhere, but we won’t be able to expand our infrastructure in the high streets to rejuvenate the inner-city infrastructure that has suffered so badly from economic change over the last 10 years.

“We won’t be able to do that without some admittedly smaller but some state taxpayer support and what Rishi said I think was that he adjusted the rules to ensure that both the Red Wall and the poorer seats can get the help they need, but also where it is needed more broadly, which of course involves the Red Wall seats, such funds can also be made available.”

The Sunak campaign defended the comments, arguing that he had amended the Treasury Department’s green paper, which sets the rules for government spending, to help cities and rural areas that also need investment.

In the video, Mr Sunak told Tory supporters: “I’ve managed to change the funding formulas to ensure areas like this get the funding they deserve because we inherited a set of formulas from Labour, which the shifted all of the funding to deprived urban areas and that had to be reversed.

“I’ve started work on undoing that.”

Speaking before a Tory husting in Eastbourne on Friday night, the former Chancellor defended his comments, saying he was making it clear that “deprivations exist across our country”.

He told Sky News: “I have pointed out that deprivation exists and needs to be addressed across our country.

“So we need to make sure our funding formulas take that into account. And people who need help and extra investment aren’t just limited to large urban areas. You can find them in cities across the UK and in rural areas as well.

“That was the point I made, that our funding formulas that don’t recognize that are outdated and need to change.”

Last week’s comments came as Mr Sunak tried to gain ground on Secretary of State Liz Truss in a bid to gain the support of party members who will be choosing the next prime minister.

Foreign Secretary Lord Zac Goldsmith said: “That is one of the strangest – and stupidest – things I have ever heard from a politician.”

Jake Berry, leader of Tory MPs’ Northern Research Group, said that Mr Sunak “claims publicly that he wants to upgrade the North, but here he boasts that he is trying to divert important investment away from deprived areas”.

“He says one thing and does the other — from collecting taxes to trying to block funding for our armed forces, and now he’s stepping up,” the Truss supporter said.

Shadow Leveling Secretary Lisa Nandy said: “It is scandalous that Rishi Sunak should openly boast that he set the rules to funnel taxpayers’ money into prosperous Tory shires.

“It’s public money. It should be shared fairly and spent where it is most needed – not as a bribe for Tory members.”

Ms Nandy later wrote to Community Secretary Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, urging him to investigate Mr Sunak’s comments and the changes to the funding formulas. Sunak’s remarks on diverting funds from ‘deprived urban areas’ divides Tories

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