Rishi Sunak is in Harrogate today (Monday) at the start of what could be one of the most challenging weeks of his premiership.
The Prime Minister faces potentially gloomy economic numbers, tricky by-elections and opposition to his Rwanda asylum plan.
But during a tour of a Harrogate bus station, Mr Sunak insisted that things were set to improve.
He also defended his decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2.
He said: “Every penny from HS2 in the North, almost £20 billion, is going to stay in the North.
“We’re here at a bus depot, which is benefiting from the £2 bus fare that we were able to put in place as a result of the reprioritisation.
“Local road schemes across the North, railway stations being reopened – those are the types of the projects I think people want us to invest in alongside road maintenance, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Mr Sunak said the £2 bus fare cap was a direct result of his decision on HS2.
He said: “Talking to the team here, as a result of that policy, they’ve seen a 15% increase in bus numbers in this area – I’m here in Harrogate, in North Yorkshire.
“That demonstrates that policy is working and the plans we’ve put in place are the right ones.”
Economy has ‘turned a corner’
The Prime Minister spoke about the state of the UK’s finances, as official figures on Thursday will show whether the UK slipped into recession.
Mr Sunak promised to grow the economy, but if the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) gross domestic product data for the final three months of last year shows a contraction, it means the UK was in a recession after two consecutive quarters of negative growth.
ONS inflation statistics for January could show a small uptick, in what would be a blow to his goal of curbing price rises.
During his Harrogate visit, the Prime Minister acknowledged that recent years had been “undoubtedly difficult”, but insisted the economy had “turned a corner”.
But he declined to say whether entering a technical recession would end the prospect of further tax cuts.
“At the start of this year I really believe the economy has turned a corner and we are heading in the right direction.” he said.
Mr Sunak is also bracing himself for a double by-election challenge in Wellingborough and Kingswood on Thursday.
His party is thought to be facing an uphill battle in the two formerly safe Tory seats.
They were vacated by disgraced former Tory MP Peter Bone, who an inquiry found broke bullying and sexual misconduct rules, and Chris Skidmore, who quit in protest at the Government’s plans to boost oil and gas production.