Protesters have gathered outside the Hippodrome where Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are due to take part in a hustings event in Darlington.

The pair are due to take part in their latest audience with Conservative members as they try and gather support ahead of the vote to decide Britain's next Prime Minister.

LIVE: Darlington hosts Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss leadership hustings debate 

The Northern Echo: Picture: CHRIS BOOTHPicture: CHRIS BOOTH

It comes as Mr Sunak has suggested he could offer hundreds of pounds in extra support to those shouldering the rising cost-of-living burden after analysts delivered a shock warning that energy bills could top £4,200 in the new year.

The two remaining contenders in the Tory leadership race faced renewed calls to spell out how they would help after Cornwall Insight forecast average bills could hit about £3,582 in October, from £1,971 today, before rising further in January.

Read more: Darlington hustings: Martin Lewis warning to Rishi Sunak & Liz Truss

The former chancellor has said he has “no doubt” extra support will be needed to get people through the winter, and he is “confident” he can find the money needed to ease the strain from Government efficiency savings.

The Northern Echo: Picture: CHRIS BOOTHPicture: CHRIS BOOTH

Quizzed on how much extra he would be prepared to hand out, Mr Sunak told ITV News that bills look set to increase by “a few hundred pounds more”, and “that’s the kind of scale that I did before”.

Pressed on whether “we’re talking a few hundred pounds more here”, he said: “Yes.”

Ms Truss, meanwhile, refused to commit to extra support for families struggling with the cost of living, again insisting her priority was driving through tax cuts to kick-start the economy.

The Northern Echo: Picture: CHRIS BOOTHPicture: CHRIS BOOTH

Speaking during a campaign visit to Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, the Foreign Secretary said that if she became prime minister she would “see what the situation is like” in the autumn.

Read more: Energy bills forecast to hit over £4,200 a year in January

However, in a fresh swipe at Mr Sunak’s record at the Treasury, she said that with the tax burden at a 70-year high, the priority had to be economic growth, with a package of emergency tax cuts.

The Northern Echo: Picture: CHRIS BOOTHPicture: CHRIS BOOTH

“What I am talking about is enabling people to keep more money in their own pockets,” she said.

“What I don’t believe in is taxing people to the highest level in 70 years and then giving them their own money back. We are Conservatives. We believe in low taxes.

“Of course, we will need to deal with the circumstances as they arise. We will see what the situation is like in the autumn, but I am committed to making sure people are supported and I am committed to growing the economy.”

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