'If I Could Just Answer The Question': Tetchy Rishi Sunak Clashes With Local Radio Presenter

Rishi Sunak did a series of local radio interviews during a visit to Yorkshire.
Rishi Sunak did a series of local radio interviews during a visit to Yorkshire.

Rishi Sunak did a series of local radio interviews during a visit to Yorkshire.

Rishi Sunak clashed with a local radio presenter during a bad-tempered grilling this morning.

The prime minister is in Yorkshire to announce extra transport funding made possible by the cancellation of the next leg of HS2.

But he was told that the government had starved local areas of funding as he was interviewed on BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

Breakfast show presenter Scott Dalton asked the PM: “This announcement that you’ve made today, aren’t you just putting money back that you’ve already taken away from our county council?

“They’ve already had a 25% cut in their highways maintenance. You’re just topping up what you took away, aren’t you?”

Sunak replied: “No, this is money that has resulted because of the decision I took on HS2 last year, where I said the right priority for our country was something different.

“So we’ve taken every penny of the billions that would have been spent on HS2 over the coming years and re-invested it in the north and the Midlands on transport that people are much more reliant on.”

But Dalton told him: “Our county council tell us that to bring the roads up to standard in Lincolnshire to the national standard, it would cost £400 million. You’re giving just half of that and it’s over seven years. It’s actually works out at £37m a year.”

As Sunak tried to say councils were receiving extra money on top of the transport funding, the presenter asked: “So why is the council tax going up 5% this year if we’re getting so much money?”

The PM said: “Well hang on, hang on. Council tax decisions are for local councillors to make.”

Dalton hit back: “Yes, because you’ve not funded them properly.”

After an awkward pause, Sunak replied: “Hang on, if I could just answer the question. We’ve just provided an extra £600m of funding for local councils. Councils will have around 8.5% more money in the region than they had last year to invest in local services.”

Dalton: “But it’s money that you’ve taken away from them in the first place. They’ve been under-funded. They’ve had to dip into reserves to fill potholes.”

But Sunak said the government had put in “more money” to fill potholes.

The prime minister had earlier told BBC Radio York that Lee Anderson’s comments about Sadiq Khan - which led to him losing the Tory whip - were “wrong” and “unacceptable”.

He said: “Words matter, especially in the current environment, where tensions are running high, and I think it’s incumbent on all of us to choose them carefully.”