English council elections: David Cameron launches Tory campaign

Conservative leader David Cameron says his party is "delivering the changes that people need"

David Cameron has urged Conservatives to be "proud" in publicising their record in office, as he launched the party's campaign for next month's English council elections.

He said council tax had been frozen for two years, while the government had made town hall pay more open and given authorities more financial freedom.

Labour councils, in contrast, were "trapped in old wasteful ways", the prime minister added.

Voters go to the polls on 3 May.

About 5,000 council seats across England, including in some of the largest metropolitan councils such as Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield, are up for grabs.

'Spotlight on waste'

Mr Cameron told party activists at the campaign launch in Derbyshire that the Conservatives ran "the best-value councils in the country" and had been "leading the way" - as the largest party in the coalition - in helping freeze council tax bills for the second year in a row.

Analysis

Too much success can be a dangerous thing in local elections.

In 2008 the Conservatives made a net gain of 194 councillors across England.

Then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, battered by the storms over axing the 10p tax rate, said he felt responsible for Labour's worst local election results in 40 years.

Now the Tories have to defend the seats they won then.

That will be tough, but if the results are poor they will have a ready explanation: the seats were lost - spin doctors will insist - in traditionally Labour wards.

Even the Conservative co-chairman Lady Warsi, though, accepts the recent rows about the Budget have not provided the best of backdrops to this campaign.

Tory councillors losing seats they were surprised to win in 2008 may accept defeat with good grace.

Those who feel voters have thrown them out because of the government's decisions could prove less sanguine.

He hailed measures which he said had helped councils save money, such as closer co-operation with neighbouring authorities on administrative functions and removing red tape.

And the prime minister said councils had been given more financial autonomy by being allowed to directly spend income raised from business rates.

"We are shining a spotlight on that (Labour) waste," he said. "We have changed the rules so that councils have to reveal everything they spend above £500 and hold a vote on huge salaries for top staff."

He praised the government's decision to raise personal tax allowances for more than 20 million people, increase the state pension by £5.30 a week and cut corporation tax, arguing that "every single person" had a reason to vote Conservative.

Mr Cameron told activists: "We need to shout loud and proud about what we have done for people."

He attacked Labour's record in local and national government, saying its "solution to debt was debt, debt and more debt". He added: "So our message has to be clear: if you look at what Labour did to our country, why on earth would you let them anywhere near your council."

BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins said the PM's "competence message" came at a time when the government itself was under sustained fire for its handling of tax measures in the Budget and other issues.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have already launched their campaigns.

The Lib Dems said they were "delivering for ordinary people" in government, while Labour said its councils had protected core services and ratepayers from government cuts and were the "first line of defence" against changes to the NHS.

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