Rishi Sunak under fire for claiming he worked to divert money from ‘deprived urban areas’ when he was Chancellor | Political news

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Rishi Sunak has been accused of ‘funneling taxpayers’ money into wealthy conservative counties’ after telling party members he was working to divert funds from ‘deprived urban areas’.

A video obtained by New Statesman magazine shows the former chancellor telling grassroots Tories that he has started changing public funding formulas to ensure other parts of the country get “the funding they deserve”.

In remarks made in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, last week, he said: ‘I’ve managed to start changing funding formulas, to make sure areas like this get the funding they deserve because we inherited a bunch of formulas from the Labor Party that pushed all the funding into the inner city areas and had to be undone.

“I have begun the work of undoing that.”

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Labor MPs expressed anger at the comments, with shadow secretary Lisa Nandy calling them “outrageous”.

She has written to the Secretary of State for Leveling Up, Greg Clark, asking him to investigate the changes Mr Sunak refers to and the justification given for them.

She said: “Rishi Sunak openly brags about setting the rules to funnel taxpayers’ money to wealthy conservative counties.

“It’s our money. It should be spent fairly and where it’s needed most – not used as a bribe for Conservative members. Talk about showing your true colors.”

Mr Sunak’s campaign did not challenge the video and instead defended its content.

Tory MP Jake Berry, chairman of the Northern Research Group of MPs, also condemned the remarks as he attacked Mr Sunak’s leadership campaign.

He tweeted: “In public @RishiSunak claims he wants to level the North, but here he brags about trying to divert vital investment from deprived areas?

“He’s saying one thing and doing another – from raising taxes to trying to block funding for our armed forces and now going up.”

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

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A source from Mr Sunak’s campaign said: “The leveling is not just about inner cities, it is also about towns and rural areas across the country that also need help. It is what he changed in the green book and he will however follow as prime minister.

“As he travels across the country, he’s seen non-metro areas that need better bus services, faster broadband, or high-quality schools. That’s what he will deliver as a Prime Minister.”

Allies of Mr Sunak have rallied behind the Tory leadership candidate.

Tees Valley Conservative Mayor Ben Houchen argued Boris Johnson led the party to election victory by pledging to invest in areas “which have been ignored at the expense of urban towns”.

And Richard Holden, the Tory MP for North West Durham, attacked Labor for ‘driving investment out of small towns, cities, suburbs, villages’ while ‘splurging’ on metropolitan centres.

Defending Mr Sunak, he told Sky News: ‘Rishi Sunak tore up (Treasury orthodoxy) so that the places right across from Cornwall to the Cotswolds to County Durham and Cambridgeshire all basically benefited from ‘a total change in the rules.’

Analysis of Sky News last year found that the majority of Leveling Up funding went to the most deprived areas of the UK. But many regions in need missed the first round.

Mr Holden added that over the years many deprived areas had “fundamentally changed”.

“You’ve seen a huge transformation in East London, but they’re still making a lot more money per capita than, say, rural areas like North West Durham, who really needs that support or some parts of South West England,” he continued.

“What I want to see is a leveling across the country, not just concentrated in urban areas.

“And that’s Rishi’s vision for the country, wherever you are, you need the same opportunity to be successful, not just in these urban areas.”

The remarks come as Mr Sunak tries to catch up with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to win the support of party members who will choose the next prime minister.

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Ms Truss has always been ahead in the polls, but last night Mr Sunak seduce an audience of undecided voters following Sky News’ Battle for No 10 program.

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