The Prime Minister visited a North Yorkshire gift shop and café to answer questions regarding the North East today (December 15).

Rishi Sunak answered questions on Middlesbrough Council’s funding issues, the Ofgem Price Cap, and James Cleverly’s alleged ‘s**thole’ comment at Strickland and Holt in Yarm, near Stockton, today.

When questioned on the comment made by the Home Secretary during PMQs recently, Mr Sunak said Mr Cleverly did not refer to Stockton as a  ‘s**thole’.

He said the area is “personally important” to him and added the Government has “consistently” backed Stockton.

He said: “The Home Secretary has already addressed this and didn’t say the comments that were alleged.

“I’m very clear that this is a place that is really personally important to me, I live down the road, I’m in Teesside Park, a bit less these days with my kids than I was before I had this job.

“It will always be near and dear to me, and the Government has consistently backed this area.

“It’s personally really important to me, my kids have grown up here and enjoy being here, and I will always deliver for people here.”

He pointed to moving the Treasury to Darlington when he was Chancellor as an example of Government backing the region.

He also listed the Tees Freeport, Government’s investment in high streets and town centres in Thornaby, Yarm, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Darlington, as examples of government’s commitment to Levelling Up.

He also pointed to the new community diagnostic centre based at  the former Castlegate Shopping Centre site in Stockton High Street.

The Northern Echo: Rishi Sunak speaks with customers in the coffee shop during a visit to Strickland & Holt in YarmRishi Sunak speaks with customers in the coffee shop during a visit to Strickland & Holt in Yarm (Image: PRESS ASSOCIATION)

When asked about the financial woes of Stockton, Middlesbrough and North Yorkshire's councils, Mr Sunak said his Government had provided record funding for councils this year.

The PM also hit out at Labour, as Middlesbrough Council faces a serious funding gap, saying the party had done a “bad job,” despite being in power since May this year.

Later Joe Dancey, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Stockton West said: “Stockton and the North East were promised “levelling up” at the last election but after 13 years of Conservative government what we see in Yarm is higher interest rates, higher inflation, higher rents and mortgages, and the highest NHS waiting lists in history.

"Stockton is crying out for change and only Labour can offer the fresh start that Britain needs.”

Some Conservatives have called for government commissioners to take control over the council, as it faces bankruptcy.

The Prime Minister told broadcasters during his visit e: “These are the facts. We have put record funding in to local areas over the past year. I did that shortly after becoming prime minister. On average, councils are having about 10 per cent more money to spend this year than they had the year before.

“Middlesbrough Council has even more than that, more than the national average. And unfortunately this is just another example of a Labour-run council that is doing a bad job for its residents, mismanaging its finances.”

He did not say whether the Government would step in to help cash-strapped councils.

Speaking on the energy price cap rise expected in next April, Mr Sunak said the main issue facing families when he was appointed was the cost of living.

He said his priority was to half inflation to combat this, and pointed to the current rate of inflation of five per cent as an example of these efforts.

“That’s our record and that’s going to make a big difference to families up and down the country, but particularly here in the North East,” he added.

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He added the Government plan to go further and “put more money in people’s pockets” by cutting taxes – and said a reduction on National Insurance and plans to cut Government spending will contribute to this.

When asked about social and children’s care, the PM said Government announced record funding for social care and the NHS a few weeks after his appointment.

He said this has been reflected in more people working in the sector and an increase in care quality.