Stroud Times editor Ash Loveridge interviewed Conservative leadership contender Rishi Sunak when he visited Gloucestershire this afternoon.
On a whistlestop tour of the county, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke to Conservative Party members at a private event near Uley.
We quizzed the finalist in the Conservative Party leadership election on how he would tackle food poverty, which continues to see people in our district increasingly reliant on Stroud Foodbank.
If anointed the next Prime Minister, Mr Sunak declared he would take steps to end the need for foodbanks, saying: “Poverty is heartbreaking, particularly if it affects children and I want to build a country where ideally nobody needs to use a foodbank, but while they are there, I want to applaud the people who run the Stroud Foodbank for the service they provide and I’m sure it makes a big difference to people, but the way we are going to help them in the short term is with the cost of living.”
And Mr Sunak insisted he would support the most vulnerable in society: “I’ve been very clear, and just as you saw me to do as chancellor, I want to make sure we support the most vulnerable, so whether that’s pensioners or those on the lowest incomes, I want to give them the extra help to get through the autumn and winter and they should have peace of mind that if I’m Prime Minister, I will do that in the same way as I did, and over time, the way we want to help people is making sure we have an economy that is creating jobs and getting people into good, well-paid jobs and give them the skills to do that’s the way we will get people off foodbanks and be able to build a really fulfilling life for their families and that’s the kind of economy I’m going to build.”
With energy companies declaring bumper financial results while households struggle to cope with soaring bills, Mr Sunak pledged to tackle a situation that could potentially see the elderly freezing to death.
He said: “Elderly people, pensioners in particular, are one of the groups of people that I think do need to get extra help over the autumn and winter. Most of them don’t pay any tax, so a tax cut won’t help them; I want to give them direct help through things like the Winter Fuel Payment, and I want to make sure they get more than they normally get to help them with energy bills.
“I do want to hold the energy companies to account and one of the things I did as chancellor was introduce a new tax. At the moment there’s a war going on and its wrong for those companies to make billions of pounds in extra profits as a result of a war at a time when people are struggling. I thought it was right to put a new tax on and we use that money to help people pay their bills, whilst still encouraging investment in home-grown energy. That’s what I did as chancellor and that’s what I’ll carry on as Prime Minister.”
Mr Sunak was greeted by MPs Richard Graham, Mark Harper and Siobhan Baillie, who publicly backed Mr Sunak last month.
Pictures by Matt Bigwood.