PM CONTENDER Rishi Sunak visited the Stroud district on Thursday as part of his leadership campaign. Reporter Alice Knight was among those invited. 

On a sweltering August day in a beautiful manor house, Mr Sunak fielded questions from Conservative party members and journalists as part of his whistle-stop leadership campaign. 

The former Chancellor - who is hoping to become the country's next Prime Minister - visited Lampern House in Uley on Thursday, August 11. 

Mr Sunak spoke to almost 200 Conservative members and explained why he wants to be the country’s next leader. 

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard:

During the visit Mr Sunak spoke about ongoing bus cancellations, delayed NHS England dentistry appointments and fly tipping. 

Speaking at the residence of Baroness Chisholm, he said: “Bus transport is very important for rural areas, I get that.

“Where I live in North Yorkshire like you guys is a very rural part of the country. 

“So I know how important it is that we have really good reliable bus services, whether it's elderly people trying to get to a doctor’s appointment or young people trying to get to their jobs. 

Mr Sunak spoke about a government pilot scheme that has been trialling in Swindon that he and Stroud MP Siobhan Bailie want to bring to the Stroud district. 

It comes after commuters recently spoke to Stagecoach West officials during a heated meeting hosted by Cam and Dursley Transportation Group in response to ongoing disruptions.

“We need to make sure that government funding supports the needs of all communities and rural areas have needs too and that’s why we need to get things right.” 

“It's not just about big cities, where you think there are public services that need to be provided. 

“Rural areas have needs too but the needs are different.”

Mr Sunak also spoke about NHS England dental appointments after a woman in Cirencester was told she would have to wait three months for a dentistry appointment and had to file her own teeth.

He said: “That’s so appalling. She shouldn't have to do that and people should not have to wait that long whether it's with A&E or appointments. 

“We need an NHS that is there for us when we need it. We’re all putting a lot into it and that’s why I want to make sure I grip the situation and figure out how we reform the NHS properly. 

“And that’s the right thing to do because it's a service that we rely on and we care about.”

Mr Sunak also spoke about people’s increasing reliance on Stroud foodbank and described poverty as ‘heartbreaking.’

“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.”

Mr Sunak also spoke about the rising cost of energy prices. 

“I do want to hold the energy companies to account and one of the things I did as chancellor was introduce a new tax”, he said. 

“At the moment there’s a war going on and it's 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.

Later that evening, Mr Sunak met opponent Liz Truss at a hustings at Cheltenham Racecourse. 

The two remaining Conservative leader candidates have until the end of August to convince around 160,000 Tory members why they should be the next party leader.

Among those attending was Stonehouse county councillor Nick Housden  - who hasn’t yet decided between Mr Sunak and Ms Truss. 

He said: “Hearing Sunak’s plans for driving growth, supporting farming and dealing with the cost of living really seemed to hit home with people. 

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Cllr Nick Housden with Rishi Sunak and other Conservative party members Cllr Nick Housden with Rishi Sunak and other Conservative party members

“I’m listening to Liz tonight in Cheltenham before I cast my vote.” 

Also at the Uley visit was Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie, Gloucester MP Richard Graham and Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper. 

Before the event Mr Sunak launched his plans for a crackdown on fly-tipping. 

He pledged to increase the fixed penalty notice and will introduce a minimum £650 court fine for the criminal offence.