Prime Minister 'impressed' by great Harrogate organisations at work during visit to town with Andrew Jones MP
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The snap visit by Rishi Sunak to Starbeck this morning was the first by a sitting PM in that part of Harrogate since David Cameron made the trek north more than a decade ago.
Tory MP Andrew Jones said it was great to be able to share with the country’s leader the “sheer quality” of work being done by two very different local organisations.
But, as someone who has praised Rishi Sunak in the past while being critical of Boris Johnson, Mr Jones also issued a warning about factionalism in the Tory Party after accompanying the PM during the trip.
"Rishi knows and likes Harrogate. He comes here even when it’s not in an official capacity.
"He lives in Northallerton and is full of pride in North Yorkshire.
"Everyone in the Tory Party should be focusing on representing their constituencies and the country.
"Policy is what counts.
“That’s why it was fantastic that the Prime Minister was able to see for himself what is being achieved here on the ground with Government investment.”
The first stop of the morning in Harrogate saw Rishi Sunak and Andrew Jones make a public visit Harrogate Bus Company’s Starbeck depot.
The PM saw work being carried out on what will be the first electric double decker in the UK as part of the Harrogate’s move to a zero emissions bus fleet with the help of Government funding.
And he also met young apprentices receiving training in a variety of roles at the award-winning bus company.
"It was great to welcome Rishi to see what is a local as well as national success story,” said Andrew Jones, a former junior transport minister.
"The double decker has been built in the UK by a British firm Alexander Dennis with Government support.
"It's such an exciting development in public transport.”
The second part of today’s visit to Starbeck saw the Prime Minister and Mr Jones call in on Harrogate Neighbours at The Cuttings on Station View.
Mr Jones said he and Mr Sunak were deeply impressed by the charity which provides outstanding care and support services to the elderly in Harrogate and district.
"The Prime Minister joined a craft class on what was a private visit and was pleased to meet residents and care providers.
"It was not only very enjoyable, Rishi was very impressed by it all.”
Mr Jones acknowledged the financial challenges facing North Yorkshire Council in its new role as a unitary authority with a £40 million budget shortfall, caused, he said, by growing demand for social care clashing with pressure on costs.
Despite some poll predictions that this year’s forthcoming General Election may see Mr Jones lose his Harrogate and Knaresborough seat after 14 years following a revival of support for the Lib Dems locally, Mr Jones was confident about the future.
"Grants have gone up for social care but so had demand over the last decade.
"I fully recognise it’s been a tough period for councils up and down the country but support is being given by the Government.
"I think the economy has turned the corner in the last couple of months and confidence is returning.”