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Sunak’s remarks about moving funds from ‘deprived urban areas’ are causing outrage

Written by Javed Iqbal

Rishi Sunak, one of the Conservative leaders, has sparked cross-party outrage after he was filmed telling party members in Tunbridge Wells how he had moved money from “deprived urban areas” to fund projects in Kent’s commuter belt .

The former British chancellor’s comments, made in a sun-drenched garden, appeared to cut across the government’s rhetoric about “leveling up” Britain and spreading wealth across the South East.

Sunak said he had changed Treasury funding formulas to ensure areas like Tunbridge Wells received “the funding they deserve”, in a video clip obtained by the New Statesman magazine, which quickly went viral.

He said: “We inherited a lot of formulas from the Labor Party that pushed all the funding into disadvantaged urban areas . . . that needed to be undone. I started the work to undo that.”

While Sunak’s The message might have gone down well with some of the Tory members voting for the next party leader and UK prime minister this summer, it did not travel far beyond the posh town of Tunbridge Wells.

Jake Berry, chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs and a supporter of Sunak’s rival, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, said Sunak publicly claims he wants to level up the North, but here he is boasting of trying to lead vital investments away. from exposed areas”.

The Labor Party said it was “scandalous” that Sunak “openly bragged that he set the rules to transfer taxpayers’ money to rich Tory shires”. Deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner joked: “And then Rishi Sunak wonders why he has no working class friends.”

Sunak denied last year that he was engaged in “pork barrel politics”, according to the Financial Times revealed that 40 out of 45 cities that received £1 billion through new “city deals”, had Conservative MPs.

Sunak said on Friday that in Tunbridge Wells he had “made the point that deprivation exists across our country and needs to be addressed and that’s why we need to make sure our funding formulas recognize that”.

“People who need help and extra investment are not just limited to large urban areas. You’ll find them in cities across the UK and also in rural areas,” he added.

An ally of Truss said: “I almost feel sorry for him. He’s running a terrible campaign and has come out with a lot of policies he clearly doesn’t believe in because he’s so desperate.”

As ballots land on Friday, some veteran Tory insiders believe the race is already over, with Sunak trailing Truss badly in polls among party members.

Although Sunak has targeted unions in the south-east of England, where the majority of the party’s members are based, two veteran campaigners said those areas had also turned against him.

“Rishi has been hoping to win the home counties but he doesn’t seem to have realized that Liz’s tax cut policies are popular with us,” said one activist.

A former minister who supports Truss said: “As far as I’m concerned it couldn’t have ended any more for Rishi. He’s committed the cardinal sin of making the Tories feel like they’re screwing poor people.”

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Javed Iqbal

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