Rishi Sunak, who boasts of working to redirect funding from “underprivileged urban areas” to more prosperous cities, echoed the Tory sentiment, while Labor called it “scandalous”.
A hopeful Tory leadership told party members that he had begun changing public funding formulas to ensure that more prosperous towns get “the funding they deserve”.
The New Statesman magazine, which received the videos revealing Mr. Sunak’s remarks, said they were addressed to a Tory rank and file in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on July 29.
It is outrageous that Rishi Sunak openly boasts that he has set the rules for funneling taxpayer money into prosperous Tory counties.Shadow Level Up Secretary Lisa Nandy
A supporter of the former chancellor on Saturday said the comments were “misunderstood”.
Former Conservative Minister Andrew Mitchell, MP for the affluent Sutton Coldfield district, told Times Radio: “I’m not saying for a moment that needs aren’t much higher elsewhere, but we can’t rejuvenate our street infrastructure. , the city center infrastructure that has been hit so hard by the economic changes of the past 10 years.
“We can’t do this without some admittedly less but some government taxpayer support, and I think Rishi said he adapted the rules to ensure that both the Red Wall and the poorer places can get seats. the help they need, but also where it is needed on a broader front, which of course affects places in Red Wall, such funding can be provided.”
Sunak’s campaign defended the remark, arguing that he changed the Treasury Department’s green paper setting government spending rules to help cities and rural areas also in need of investment.
In the video, Mr Sunak told Conservative supporters: “I was able to start changing the funding formulas to make sure these areas get the funding they deserve because we inherited a bunch of formulas from Labor that sent all the funding to poor urban areas. and it had to be cancelled.
“I’ve started work on fixing it.”
Speaking ahead of a Tory crowd in Eastbourne on Friday night, the former chancellor defended his comments by saying that he was emphasizing that “deprivation exists right across our country.”
He told Sky News: “I have stressed that deprivation exists throughout our country and needs to be addressed.
“That’s why we need to make sure our funding formulas take this into account. And people who need help and additional investment do not live only in large urban areas. You will find them in cities across the UK as well as in the countryside.
“That was what I was talking about, that our funding formulas, which cannot be recognized, are outdated and need to be changed.”
The remarks, made last week, came as Mr. Sunak is trying to make up for lost time against Foreign Minister Liz Truss to win support from party members who will elect the next prime minister.
Foreign Secretary Lord Zach Goldsmith said: “This is one of the strangest and stupidest things I have ever heard from a politician.”
Jake Berry, chairman of the Northern Conservative MPs Study Group, said that publicly, Mr. Sunak “claims he wants to level the North, but here he boasts that he is trying to funnel vital investments from underprivileged areas.”
“He says one thing and does another, from imposing taxes to trying to block funding for our military, and now leveling up,” said a Truss supporter.
Shadow Leveling Secretary Lisa Nandy said: “It is outrageous that Rishi Sunak openly boasts that he has set the rules for funneling taxpayer money into prosperous Tory counties.
“This is public money. They should be distributed fairly and spent where they are most needed, and not be used as a bribe to members of the Conservatives.
Ms Nandy later wrote to Commons Secretary Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, urging him to investigate Mr Sunak’s comments and changes to funding formulas.