Cost of living, knife crime and general elections: Rishi Sunak quizzed on visit to the West Country

  • PM Rishi Sunak speaks to ITV News West Country.

The Prime Minister has insisted that "we are making progress" when it comes to knife crime despite a spate of fatal stabbings in Bristol.

Rishi Sunak also said that his government is making "real progress" in tackling the cost of living, while on a visit to the southwest on Thursday 14 March.

The PM also ruled out holding a general election on 2 May, the day when local elections are being held to select councillors, mayors and police and crime commissioners. This followed months of speculation that Mr Sunak might call an election on this date - which he said was a rumour that the Labour Party are trying to "whip up".

Rishi Sunak: 'We are making progress on knife crime but we must do more'

Over the last few months, four teenagers have become the victims of knife attacks in Bristol, incidents which have shocked the local community and lead to calls that enough is enough.

Speaking live to ITV News' Alex Lovell and Bob Cruwys, Rishi Sunak said: "We are making progress, knife crime overall has come down - partly because we have put more police officers on the streets. 20,000 more officers, of which around 160 odd are in Gloucestershire for example.

"We've given them more powers, stop and search which is helpful. All of that has helped contribute to the fall, but every child, every person who dies tragically to knife crime is a child too many so me must keep doing more."

He said the government is giving police more powers and increasing sentences for offenders.

  • The Prime Minister spoke about tackling knife crime in cities such as Bristol

The PM was questioned over cuts to youth services in the West Country and beyond, which is a way of giving young people another path away from knife crime.

Mr Sunak said: "The other part of it is the work we are doing to invest in youth provision across the country.

"We have something called the Youth Endowment Fund which is providing support for hundreds of youth clubs across the country.

"It will mean kids will have somewhere safe to go outside of school.

"I'm a dad and I have two young girls, we can't have this going on because kids are killing kids and that's why knife crime is particularly awful."

The Prime Minister spoke to ITV West Country as part of a visit to Gloucestershire.

Rishi Sunak: 'Every week, people will start to feel a difference' to the cost of living

The Prime Minister was also asked about the cost of living and insisted that while things are improving, "it will take time for people to feel that".

He added: "But look, these are the facts.

"Inflation has fallen from 11% to 4%, mortgage rates are starting to come down, energy bills have already started falling and in just a couple of weeks, they'll fall by almost around £250.

"And for everyone in work, they're already benefitting from our tax cuts. £900 this year, half of which kicked in at the beginning of this year and the other half which will kick in in a few weeks time in April.

"So, that is real progress that will help people. Those are practical things that will make a difference and I think every week, every month that goes by, people will start to feel that difference, they'll start to feel that the plans are working."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has urged voters to trust in him that issues such as knife crime and the cost of living are "improving".

After hearing from people in Swindon who said they were struggling to pay for food and even feeling that they were being "punished", Mr Sunak acknowledged "it has been difficult".

He said: "When you've got a war in Ukraine, just as you're recovering from the pandemic, inflation rockets up to 11%, a level that we haven't seen in decades, energy bills would have gone up to £4,500 had we not stepped in to support people, but they still went up considerably... Of course that's going to take its toll on everybody."

But challenged on inflation and the impact this has had on food prices, Mr Sunak argued that "some things have come down already, others will follow".

  • Rishi Sunak speaks about the cost of living

The Prime Minister added: "Overall though, over the last six or seventh months, wages have grown at a rate faster than prices and on top of that we're cutting people's taxes.

"We've been through a tough time, without a doubt it's been really tough. But at the start of this year, we've turned a corner. These tax cuts are real. If you're on an average earnings of say, £35,000 - which is the UK average - that's worth £900 to you this year."

Challenged about whether pensioners should be worried that National Insurance will affect their pension, Mr Sunak said it is "really important" that voters know "they absolutely don't need to be".

"It's got nothing to do with it," he said.

"Pensions have been completely protected, the triple lock is protected and last year the state pension went up by around £900, this year, it's about to go up to around £900 and at the same time, we're cutting National Insurance."