Darlington businesses have had their say after the Prime Minister said he "understood the frustrations" over the doubling of energy bills and cost of living crisis.

Rishi Sunak was in Darlington yesterday (Monday, February 12) where he answered questions put to him by a live forum on a GB News viewer panel.

Issues raised with the PM included concerns regarding energy bill increases, the cost of living crisis, the impact of Covid on NHS backlogs, and the Rwanda Bill.

When asked why traditional voters should back the Conservative party rather than the Nigel Farage-linked Reform UK, he told one questioner he could “completely appreciate your frustration.”

Businesses from Darlington town centre had their say on the comments made by Sunak, with some understanding of the Government’s circumstances, while others were left unimpressed with his response.

A business owner on Grange Road in Darlington said: “The rising cost of running a business is becoming more difficult every day.

“For the Prime Minister to say he ‘understands’ just shows how completely out of touch he is.”

Lyndsey Murray, 43, owner of the Black Olive Deli on Grange Road, said operating has been difficult, but believes business owners have been given “sufficient” support.

She said: “I feel like the support that we’ve been given has been sufficient, business is hard, but business is hard for anybody, anytime.

“We didn’t go into this thinking it was going to be an easy ride. I feel like Rishi and the Government have supported [us] as much as they possibly can.

“I don’t know what else the Government could do to assist us any further.”

She pointed to the fixing of energy rates and the relief rate as examples of support, and adds the biggest pressure they are facing is increased wages.

Malcolm Dobson, of Darlington, owner of Skinnergate News, which will be closing its doors in five months, said he believes nothing will change - regardless of which party is in power.

He said: “I think it’s irreparable now. I can’t see any independent shops in five years.

“I’m not a Conservative, I’m a free vote. I’ve voted Labour most of my life, I’ve voted Conservative.

“I think he [Sunak] did a good job last night, he answered the questions, he didn’t dodge them.

“The issue with the Government at the moment is, it doesn't matter who’s in power, the opposition just automatically block whatever. It will work the same way if Labour got in, you’ll get nothing through, nothing done.

“Politics needs to change. It won’t make any difference who’s in power.”

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The Prime Minister was questioned by GB News viewers live on the channel in a “people’s forum” on Monday evening, with the station gathering a cross-section of voters in Co Durham.

Mr Sunak defended his tenure heading into a general election later this year, as he addressed a roomful of voters.

Switching between attacking Labour and defending the Tories’ record, he warned “undecided voters” that choosing to vote Labour will be going “back to square one”.