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Greg Clark caught up in Rishi Sunak ‘deprived areas’ furore

Housing Secretary Greg Clark, who is also the Levelling Up Secretary, has been caught up in the storm surrounding Rishi Sunak after the Conservative Party leadership contender and former Chancellor admitted diverting public money from ‘deprived urban areas’.

In a clip obtained by the New Statesman, Sunak told a hustings in Tunbridge Wells, where Clark is MP, that he wanted to ensure ‘areas like this’ secured the funding they deserved.

The video, filmed on July 29, saw Sunak talking about changing the funding formulas at the Treasury to ensure areas like Tunbridge Wells received more.


He told the audience: “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.”

Sunak’s allies insisted he was referring to changes to Treasury rules on investment and the introduction of the levelling up fund, with a spokesperson for the prime ministerial candidate saying: “Levelling up isn’t just about city centres, it’s also about towns and rural areas all over the country that need help too."

He added: “Travelling around the country, he’s seen non-metropolitan areas that need better bus services, faster broadband in towns, or high-quality schools. That’s what he’ll deliver as prime minister.”

But the leaked video clip led to a furious reaction from Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy, who has written to Clark calling on him to ‘urgently investigate’ the changes made to funding formulas while Sunak was Chancellor.

Nandy tweeted: “It’s scandalous that Rishi Sunak funnelled public money away from deprived areas and gave it to affluent Tory shires.”

Zac Goldsmith, a minister at the Foreign Office and a former London mayoral candidate, said the leaked video was ‘one of the weirdest - and dumbest - things I’ve ever heard from a politician’.

And Jake Berry, the chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, tweeted: “In public @RishiSunak 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…”

Sunak later defended the leaked comments at another hustings event in Eastbourne, saying: “I want to level up everywhere. And as you may have seen from a video clip that’s online, I don’t believe that’s just about our very large urban cities.”

“I believe that’s about investing and levelling up in small towns, in rural towns, in coastal communities like those here in the south-east.”

Clark, a key minister in the Theresa May years who has kept a largely low profile since being appointed to Boris Johnson’s temporary Cabinet last month, has not endorsed either candidate and recently warned Sunak and his leadership rival Liz Truss that blue-on-blue attacks could damage the Tories at the next election.

Rachel Wearmouth, deputy editor at the New Statesmen and the one who broke the exclusive, said that Clark was with Sunak at the time the video was taken.


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