Rishi Sunak’s boast of working to divert funds from “deprived urban areas” to more affluent cities has divided Tory figures, with Labor labeling it a “scandal”.
The Tory leadership hopeful told party members he had started to change public funding formulas to ensure wealthier cities get “the funding they deserve”.
The New Statesman magazine, which obtained video footage revealing Sunak’s remarks, said they were sent to grassroots Tories in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on July 29.
It is scandalous that Rishi Sunak openly boasts that he fixed the rules to transfer taxpayers’ money to wealthy Tory constituencies
Shadow levels up Secretary Lisa Nandy
A supporter of the former chancellor on Saturday insisted the comments had been “misunderstood”.
Conservative former minister Andrew Mitchell, MP for the affluent seat of Sutton Coldfield, told Times Radio: “I’m not saying for a moment that the needs aren’t far greater elsewhere, but we won’t be able to rejuvenate our high street infrastructure. , the downtown infrastructure, which has suffered so severely from economic changes over the past 10 years.
“We won’t be able to do it without some, admittedly less, but some government taxpayer support and what Rishi said, I think, was that he had adjusted the rules to ensure that both the red wall and the inferior seats can be received. the help they need, but also where it is needed on a wider front, which of course affects the Red Wall seats, such funding can be made available.”
The Sunak campaign defended the remarks, arguing that he was changing the Treasury’s Green Paper which set the rules for public spending to help cities and rural areas that also need investment.
In the video, Sunak told Tory supporters: “I managed to start changing the funding formulas, to make sure that areas like this get the funding they deserve because we inherited a bunch of formulas from Labor that pushed all the funding into deprived urban areas. and that had to be redone.
“I started work on undoing it.”
Ahead of a Tory husting in Eastbourne on Friday night, the former chancellor defended his comments, saying he was making the point that “deprivation exists across our country”.
He told Sky News: “I made the point that deprivation exists across our country and needs to be dealt with.
“That’s why we need to make sure our funding formulas recognize that. And people who need help and extra investment aren’t just confined to big urban areas. You’ll find them in cities across the UK and in the countryside too.
“That was the point I was making, that our funding formulas that fail to recognize that are outdated and they needed to change.”
Last week’s comments came as Sunak tries to make amends with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to win support from party members who will choose the next prime minister.
Truss refused to say whether her campaign was involved in the leaking of the video when asked about it during a visit to the West Midlands, saying only: “I’m running a positive campaign.”
Foreign Secretary Lord Zac Goldsmith said: “This is one of the weirdest – and stupidest – things I’ve ever heard from a politician.”
Jake Berry, chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, said Sunak publicly “claims he wants to uplift the North, but here he’s bragging about trying to divert vital investment away from vulnerable areas”.
“He says one thing and does another – from raising taxes to trying to block the funding of our armed forces and reaching the level up,” the Truss supporter said.
Shadow leveling secretary Lisa Nandy said: “It is scandalous that Rishi Sunak is openly boasting that he fixed the rules to transfer taxpayers’ money to wealthy Tory constituencies.
– This is public money. It should be distributed fairly and used where it is most needed – not used as a bribe to Tory members.”
Nandy later wrote to Communities Secretary Greg Clark, who is MP for Tunbridge Wells, urging him to investigate Sunak’s comments and the changes to the funding formulas.