Local elections: Nick Clegg launches Lib Dem campaign

Nick Clegg: "We're having to take difficult and controversial decisions"

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Nick Clegg has launched the Liberal Democrats' English local elections campaign, which he admitted will be "tough" for his party.

He said the Lib Dems were "delivering for ordinary people", citing increases in the tax threshold and state pension.

But he acknowledged they were also "doing controversial things" in government to tackle the UK's deficit.

In last year's local elections the party lost control of nine of their 19 councils and 778 councillors.

Local authority ballots take place in England, Scotland and Wales on 3 May.

In the 2011 local elections in England, the Lib Dems gained only 30 council seats. The result prompted calls for some senior Lib Dems in local government for Mr Clegg to quit.

This year they are defending fewer councils - mostly in the south of England.

'Controversial things'

Mr Clegg said: "I think it is right that the council elections this year will be tough for us because the last time we fought these seats was four years ago in a completely different political context.

Start Quote

We stand for the whole country not just parts of it”

End Quote Nick Clegg Lib Dem leader

"We're now in government doing difficult things, controversial things, because we're having to rescue the economy from the mess we inherited from Labour."

But he said it was the time to be proud of being a Lib Dem, pointing to the rise in the amount of money people can earn before they start paying tax and the Pupil Premium - extra money for schools to help the most disadvantaged children.

Both policies were contained in the Lib Dem manifesto and subsequently adopted by the coalition.

He also championed "the biggest ever cash rise in the state pension of £5.30 a week" that will come in shortly - although critics point to the chancellor's decision to freeze age-related tax allowances for the over 65s, and scrap them altogether for those turning 65 next year.

At local level, Mr Clegg said Lib Dem-led councils were freezing council tax and trying to protect services from cuts.

He said his party was different from Labour and the Conservatives - who were "not represented at all in any meaningful way" across the south and north of England respectively.

"We are still at local council level a strong force to be reckoned with north, south, east and west, and that's something I'm very proud of.

"We stand for the whole country not just parts of it."

Labour leader Ed Miliband launched his party's English local elections campaign on Monday, accusing the coalition parties of "betraying Middle Britain" and arguing Labour had "different values".

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