The Prime Minister took a swing at Labour as he visited Sussex and said his rival Keir Starmer is “taking voters for granted”.

Rishi Sunak took aim at his opponent during a visit to the Dog and Bacon pub in Horsham today.

Mr Sunak, who also came to Horsham in April, was quizzed on why many voters in the county are seemingly turning their backs on his party.

The Conservatives have seen big losses at the local elections in the region and are predicted to lose several Sussex seats at the impending General Election on July 4.

Horsham is one place where it is believed the Tories could be unseated by the Liberal Democrats.

The Argus: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a neighbourhood watch meeting at the Dog and Bacon pub in HorshamPrime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a neighbourhood watch meeting at the Dog and Bacon pub in Horsham (Image: PA)

But Mr Sunak dismissed projections and criticised Labour while recounting his battle bus slogan of “clear plan, bold action, secure future”.

“I think the only poll that matters is the General Election on July 4,” he said.

“The choice for that election is increasingly clear.

“We are the only party that is willing to take bold action, that’s got a clear plan and that’s how we’ll deliver a more secure future for everyone, not just in Sussex, but across the country.

“In contrast to the Labour party and Keir Starmer who are taking people for granted.

“They’ve not put any ideas forward on the table, they’re asking people for a blank cheque without telling them what they will do with it or how much it’s going to cost them.

“I don’t think that’s right so we’re going to fight hard for every person’s vote.

“And we have a fantastic set of local candidates here who are delivering for their communities.

“Just talking to residents today about our record in bringing down crime and supporting local communities in those efforts is something people recognised that the Conservatives have delivered on for the area.”

The Argus: Rishi Sunak's battle bus Rishi Sunak's battle bus (Image: Savannah Nicholson/The Argus)

The Argus also asked if the standing down of several Sussex MPs ahead of the General Election showed a loss of confidence in the party’s prospects.

MPs who have stood down include Tim Loughton who held East Worthing and Shoreham since 1997, Henry Smith, who held Crawley since 2010 and Huw Merriman who was MP for Bexhill and Battle for nine years.

“MPs stand down for all sorts of reasons and I always respect their decision,” Mr Sunak said.

“I pay tribute to their record and service.

“I visited Tim not that long ago in his constituency.

“They will of course be sorely missed but we have fantastic candidates standing across Sussex.

“What people are focused on in this election is the choice and the choice is clear.

“We are a party that has a clear plan and you can see that’s working on the economy.

“Inflation is back to normal and the economy is growing faster than our competitors and wages are rising and now taxes are being cut.

“I don’t think people want to put that progress at risk.”

The Argus: The Prime Minister sipping his drinkThe Prime Minister sipping his drink (Image: PA)

The Prime Minister visited the Dog and Bacon to meet the town’s Neighbourhood Watch group following his promise to recruit 8,000 more neighbourhood police officers.

Mr Sunak said “more bobbies on the beat” with greater powers would help drive down crime.

The Tories said the plan would be funded in part by increasing visa fees by 25 per cent and making overseas students pay a higher level of immigration health surcharge.

The pub’s landlords Phil and Kathryn Farrelly welcomed the pledge and said antisocial behaviour and shoplifting is “rife” in Horsham.

The pair said the PM’s visit was a shock and that they had only found out who was visiting that morning.

The Tories plan to press ahead with extra powers for officers to crack down on so-called zombie knives and use GPS tracking technology to search for stolen phones without a warrant which were included in the Criminal Justice Bill which was halted when Mr Sunak called the General Election.

The Argus: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak talking to locals at a cafe in Squires Garden Centre in CrawleyPrime Minister Rishi Sunak talking to locals at a cafe in Squires Garden Centre in Crawley (Image: PA)

Labour has set out a goal of having an extra 13,000 constables and police and community support officers (PCSOs) involved in neighbourhood policing.

But the Tories said this means only 3,000 extra full-time police officers, with the rest made up of PCSOs, officers redeployed to neighbourhood teams and volunteer special constables.

Mr Sunak said: “Labour has no plan and no idea how to fund more police officers.”

The Tory policy for England and Wales would see 2,000 extra officers recruited a year, reaching the target of 8,000 in 2027-28.

The total annual cost will reach £818 million in 2029/30, the Conservatives said.

Hiking visa fees and removing the student discount will raise £600 million in 2024/25, the Tories said.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper dismissed the plan as “another empty promise from a desperate Tory party”.

“The Tories have repeatedly promised more police on the beat but instead they have cut 10,000 neighbourhood police, 90 per cent of crimes are going unsolved, prisons are in crisis and more than twice as many people now say they never see the police on the beat,” she said.

“Meanwhile the Tories’ funding sums are a fudge that seem to depend on continued high migration which they promised to bring down.

“Labour has a costed and funded plan to put 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs back on the beat, by cutting back-office waste.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said 6,000 crimes were still going unsolved every day.

“The Conservatives have already failed to protect our communities from crime,” he said.

“From slashing community officer numbers into oblivion to funnelling millions into pet projects instead of bobbies on the beat, Conservative ministers have got their priorities all wrong for years.”

Earlier in his visit to the county, Rishi Sunak visited Squire’s garden centre in Crawley and also met the constituency’s Conservative candidate Zack Ali.

Crawley is a target seat for Labour.