Vote 2012: Welsh Conservatives 'will put power in electors' hands'

The Welsh Conservatives have launched their campaign for the local elections, insisting they are the party best placed to challenge Labour.

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The Welsh Conservatives said they were Labour's main challenger when they launched their local election Campaign on Thursday.

They urged people to vote Tory next month for lower council tax.

But the council tax freeze they called for would depend on funding from the Welsh government.

Tory-run councils would prioritise cleaning up litter and dog mess, and repair roads, said the party, which is defending about 160 seats on 3 May.

The Conservative share of the vote was second to Labour at the last election in 2008.

This year's vote is taking place against the backdrop of public spending cuts by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition in Westminster.

The Tories say they are fielding a record number of candidates in the 21 councils where elections are taking place. Elections will happen in all Welsh authorities except Anglesey, which is being run by ministerially-appointed commissioners, and will hold its vote in 2013.

The party has called for the Welsh government to help councils freeze taxes, as their Westminster coalition has done. Welsh government ministers say the average Band D bill is already lower than in England.

Freeze

Tory-run Monmouthshire froze council tax this year. In the Vale of Glamorgan, also run by the Conservatives, the tax on Band D homes is rising from £923.85 to £940.05.

Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said there was a "clear choice on 3 May."

"Higher council tax under Labour or lower council tax under the Welsh conservatives," she said.

"As far as I am concerned we are the main challengers to Labour in Wales and we take nothing for granted."

She claimed the UK government had delivered for Wales, pointing to decisions on rail electrification, income tax cuts and a commission into further devolution.

She said: "Our natural instinct is to empower people giving them more choice and freedom to run their towns, villages and communities and create the prosperity we so badly need in Wales."

The party launched their manifesto at the Rodney Parade rugby ground in Newport. The Conservatives have led the city council for the last four years.

Welsh assembly opposition leader Andrew RT Davies attacked the "isolation-ism" of Plaid Cymru.

Calling for lower council taxes he said: "We believe the best people to spend money are the people who work hard to earn that money to spend it in the local economy."

He added: "We cannot allow Carwyn Jones and the Labour party to sit back and expect this election to fall into their laps as they are at the moment."

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