TREASURER Rishi Sunak was back on Teesside this morning as the political fight for the Hartlepool seat continues.

Mr Sunak took a tour of the Northern School of Art campus in Hartlepool and even tried his hand at art himself, by painting a 'number 11' on a tiny Downing Street door.

The door had been made by students on a model-making course at the Hartlepool campus and was presented to the Treasurer as a gift.

Mr Sunak also took a tour of construction work taking place on new film studios on campus and cemented a couple of bricks in place. 

He was joined at the art school by Conservative by-election candidate Jill Mortimer and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.

The Northern Echo:

Rishi Sunak was presented with a replica of his Downing Street door Picture: PA

He praised the work being done by students at the art school and said the new film studios will ensure it has a significant place in the creative arts sector.

He said: “Creative industries are one of the UK’s absolutely fantastic, globally competitive exporting industries, and it is something we should all be proud of.

“You speak to the young people here and you cannot but be filled with confidence and optimism about the future.”

Mr Sunak defended the government’s record of helping young people back into employment and said that ‘unprecedented’ investment has been made to support people and businesses during the Covid pandemic.

The Northern Echo:

Bricklayer Danny Honeyman oversaw Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s bricklaying attempts Picture: PA

He said: “If you look at the statistics, what you’ll find is that those on the lowest incomes have actually seen the most protection during this pandemic period and that is something that I am proud that we have done.”

Mr Sunak did say that Covid job losses ‘weigh heavily’ on him, adding: “Sadly 800,000 people have lost their jobs and that is why we are throwing the kitchen sink into helping people find work.”

When Labour leader Keir Starmer visited Hartlepool last week, he highlighted the uncertainty faced by workers at Liberty Steel and at the town's power station which is due to come to the end of its natural life in a couple of years.

He said that the government needs to 'act now' to secure the Liberty Steel jobs and reassure the power station workers over their future.

Mr Sunak said that it wouldn't be appropriate for him to comment on indivudual company's situations.

He said: "But as you would have heard from the business secretary, we are monitoring the situation closely and there's appropriate dialogue that is happening.

The Northern Echo:

Rishi Sunak taking a tour of the new film studio development in Hartlepool Picture: PA

"What I would say to people is, that regardless of the industry that you work in, this government is focused on making sure that everyone can have a fantastic job that is fulfilling for them and helps them provide for them and their family and makes sure that they have a better future for themselves.

"And that's why we are investing so much of our time and energy and money into providing that, which is the Kickstart scheme for young people, which is really high quality job placements for those people most affected by the crisis.

"(There are) new opportunities to retrain with Prime Minister's lifetime skills guarantee, giving adults the opportunity to pick up a Level 3 qualification at any stage in their life.

"Or the apprenticeships incentive which means that businesses are being given £3,000 to take on a new apprentice of any age at this time.

"So hopefully, wherever people are, what they see is that there is opportunity out there for me and the government is helping to support me in finding it."