RICHMOND MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak toured the town centres of his constituency to call on the country to back their high streets as Britain embarks on the battle to climb out of the coronavirus crisis.

With the country facing an eye watering £298 bn bill for the virus rescue package according to estimates by the Office for Budget Responsibility Mr Sunak has his work cut out trying to balance the books.

The MP says one of the most important issues is for the country to get behind the retail sector backing town centres and shops as part of a national campaign.

He visited Northallerton, Bedale and Richmond urging people to back their local high streets while at the same time shopping safely amid the coronavirus restrictions. The retail sector overall employs more people than any other which the Chancellor maintains puts high streets and shops at the forefront of the drive for recovery.

He said: "Our much-loved high streets and market places are a cornerstone of the local economy, providing thousands of jobs. At this critical moment in our country’s history, it’s essential that we show them our support as they open their doors again.

"It’s going to take a national effort to help the economy recover from the virus. So, I urge people here and across the country to back local business and shop safely.

"I’d particularly like them to remember those local businesses which were in a position to adjust the way they traded during the height of the crisis to supply us all, but especially the vulnerable, with essentials."

Mr Sunak visited Barkers department store, Hutton Flowers, Dennis and Parry shoes and Cowley Cycles in Northallerton, Cockburns Butchers, Institution Cafe and Nickery Nook cards in Bedale and Mocha Chocolate in Richmond.

Angela Mungham of Nickery Nook said: "The governments help during the lockdown was a lifeline.It has been very difficult, we told Mr Sunak about expanding our online business. I think he has a point the High Street has always been changing, but we have to go forward for the future. Every town needs a focus."

As well as the job retention scheme, which the government says has protected nine million jobs ,10,900 of them in the Richmond constituency, they also brought in tax relief and other measures of support to get people and businesses through the pandemic.