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Sunak’s boast about diverting funds from ‘deprived urban areas’ divides Tories

06 Aug 2022 4 minute read
Rishi Sunak (left) speaks with Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen. Picture by Owen Humphreys / PA Wire

Rishi Sunak bragging about working to divert funding from “deprived urban areas” towards more prosperous towns has divided Tory figures, with Labour labelling it as “scandalous”.

The Tory leadership hopeful told party members that he had started changing public funding formulas to ensure more prosperous towns receive “the funding they deserve”.

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

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 will not be able to rejuvenate our high street infrastructure, the town centre infrastructure, which has suffered so grievously from economic change over the last 10 years.

“We won’t be able to do that without some, admittedly smaller, but some Government taxpayer support and what Rishi was saying, I think, was that he had adapted the rules to ensure that both the Red Wall and the poorer seats can receive the help they need, but also where it’s needed on a wider front, which of course affects the Red Wall seats, such funding can be made available.”

Green book

The Sunak campaign defended the remarks, arguing he changed the Treasury’s green book setting the rules for government spending to help towns and rural areas also in need of investment.

In the video, Mr Sunak told Tory supporters: “I managed to start changing the funding formulas, to make sure areas like this are getting the funding they deserve because we inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone.

“I started the work of undoing that.”

Speaking ahead of a Tory hustings in Eastbourne on Friday evening, the former chancellor defended his comments, saying he was making the point that “deprivation exists right across our country”.

He told Sky News: “I was making the point that deprivation exists right across our country and needs to be addressed.

“That’s why we need to make sure our funding formulas recognise that. And people who need help and extra investment aren’t just limited to big urban areas. You find them in towns across the United Kingdom and in rural areas, too.

“That was the point I was making, that our funding formulas that fail to recognise that are out of date, and they needed changing.”


The remarks from last week came as Mr Sunak tries to make up ground against Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to win the backing of party members who will choose the next prime minister.

Ms Truss declined 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 Office minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said: “This is one of the weirdest – and dumbest – things I’ve ever heard from a politician.”

Jake Berry, chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, said that in public Mr Sunak “claims he wants to level up the North, but here he boasts about trying to funnel vital investment away from deprived areas”.

“He says one thing and does another – from putting up taxes to trying to block funding for our armed forces and now levelling up,” the Truss supporter said.


Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said: “It’s scandalous that Rishi Sunak is openly boasting that he fixed the rules to funnel taxpayers’ money to prosperous Tory shires.

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

Ms Nandy later wrote to Communities Secretary Greg Clark, who is the MP for Tunbridge Wells, urging him to investigate Mr Sunak’s comments and the changes to funding formulas.

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andrew r north
andrew r north
1 year ago

Seemed pretty clear to me. Take from the poor and give to the rich. Wonder how many shiresters in RoyalTunbridge wells are choosing between heating and eating or are sleeping in the street. I venture 0.

1 year ago

It has always been the case that the conserve part of conservative, has been to keep the wealth where it has traditionally been. No doubt, and no problem when you understand how they think., that is why they exist, has been the same for over a century, please dont tell me anybody is shocked or surprised, this is their Raison d’etre.and they are proud of it.

1 year ago
Reply to  Gareth

The UK is their State. They are the core of the political establishment. Aneurin Bevan had the measure of them. There’s a reason why they hate the EU. There’s a reason why they hate devolution. There’s a reason for their paternalism and chauvinism towards Wales. When people label us perjoritavely as “nationalists” for our desire to realise democratic political self-determination, they miss the elephant in the room. The real nationalists are the faction that have taken over the Tory Party – “the b******s” as John Major called them. They view the UK as their dominion. They believe it is theirs… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Arwyn
1 year ago

To quote a Welsh collier who went to fight in the Spanish civil war, ” if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot facists “, I am starting to feel his pain and anger, as I watch a very dark cloud engulf Cymru, almost a century later.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 year ago

Ah, it all makes sense now. So that’s what shifty Sunak did with our £375 million EU Structual Funding? Crooked Conservative. I know his nom dom wife’s good at diverting money.. He must have copied her practices by moving our EU money to their Northern red Tory constituencies as a sweetener with the remainder given to the Surry set in the Home Counties.

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