Tees Valley Mayor has backed Rishi Sunak after the Tory leadership hopeful’s credibility on levelling-up came into question after a video emerged of him telling Tory members he had been working to divert funding from “deprived urban areas” to more prosperous towns.

The former chancellor bragged that he had started changing public funding formulas to ensure more prosperous towns receive “the funding they deserve”.

A video of the Tory leadership hopeful making the remarks went viral online after it was obtained by The Statesman Magazine.

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In the clip Sunak said: “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.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has stood beside his man despite the comments, saying the clip “selectively shows only a small part of a wider conversation” about local funding.

Houchen told The Northern Echo: ““This short clip selectively shows only a small part of a wider conversation that Rishi was having about local Council funding formulas and how, when he became Chancellor, those funding formulas discriminated against towns and villages – like those across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool - in favour of big cities that already receive significant amounts of investment.    

“Levelling up is crucial to places like Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, and the change he made to local council funding actually means that areas like ours receive our fair share, rather than most of it going to large urban areas like London. 

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“Rishi was right to say that it’s not fair deprived urban areas get more money than similarly deprived towns or rural areas. This is something we know well in our region, as we have been underfunded and let down for decades.

“We need investment to be spread fairly across our country, and in Rishi we have someone who understands that we need to rip up years of treasury orthodoxy, like the green book valuation process that punishes areas like Teesside that have long lacked investment, doubling down on decades of neglect in favour of urban, inner city areas.”

But Labour’s shadow levelling-up secretary Lisa Nandy, who delivered a key speech in Darlington just last month, said the comments were ‘scandalous’.

The Northern Echo: Lisa Nandy delivering a speech in Darlington on July 18. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTLisa Nandy delivering a speech in Darlington on July 18. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Nandy said: “This leadership race is revealing the Conservatives’ true colours. 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.”

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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.”

Earlier this week Liz Truss faced questions over her levelling-up plans after she was forced into a U-turn on a policy that could have seen public sector workers in the North East paid less than their counterparts in London.

Last month The Northern Echo joined other newspaper titles across the North to call on both candidates not to “turn their back” on the North once in Downing Street.

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