Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cameron rallies Tory campaigners

11 April 2011 Last updated at 17:26 GMT David Cameron: Conservative Party is "committed" to the north west of England

David Cameron has attacked Labour-run councils in a speech to Conservative activists in Manchester ahead of the local elections.

The Conservative leader accused them of extravagant spending and claimed "pen pushers" in some local authorities were Royal Wedding street parties.

Labour leader Ed Miliband says his party will be the "first line of defence" against cuts.

Local elections will be held across England on 5 May.

More than 9,500 council seats will be contested in 279 local authorities across England, on the same day as devolved elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and a referendum on the future of the UK electoral system.

Mr Cameron opened his speech by accusing Labour of having failed to create jobs in the north of England: "I'm fed up with hearing the same old myth from Labour - the idea that somehow the Conservative Party isn't committed to the North West.

'Danger zone'

"One of the great scandals of the Labour years - for every 10 jobs created by businesses in the south - just one job was created in the whole of the North and the Midlands. That is Labour's legacy to the North West."

Continue reading the main story image of Carole Walker Carole Walker Pollitical correspondent, BBC News

At an arts centre just down the road from Old Trafford football ground, David Cameron had words of praise for the local Tory mayor, who has sold off his personalised number plate.

He compared Tory-controlled Trafford Council's efforts to cut waste with Labour-controlled Manchester City Council's decision to pay its chief executive £70,000 more than the prime minister's salary.

Mr Cameron's message was that Tory councils are delivering better value for money and protecting frontline services while charging lower council tax than their Labour counterparts.

The PM has come under pressure from Tory MPs and activists to do more to sell the Conservative message.

He plans on spending up to three days a week from now until polling day visiting different parts of the country mobilising supporters and rallying voters.

Mr Cameron knows many voters will blame his government for the cuts to local services, but he says Labour must also shoulder some of the blame because of its handling of the economy over 13 years in power.

With local councils having to make big savings, Tory strategists are braced for an uphill struggle, with some analysts predicting they will lose up to 1,000 councillors on 5 May.

He said the government was backing a series of projects including the Mersey Gateway, funding the electrification of rail lines between Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Blackpool and investing £100m in science investment projects and said the party planned to "drive growth" in the North West.

The Conservative leader said spending cuts should be kept "in perspective" and under Labour he said there would have been higher interest rates, less investment and fewer jobs and repeated his claim that the government had lifted Britain "out of the danger zone".

"Labour didn't so much run our country, as run our country into the ground and once again it has fallen to this party to come in, to clear up the mess and to give our country the leadership she needs."

And he targeted Labour-majority councils over their approach to spending cuts - and the Royal Wedding.

He accused Manchester City Council, which is cutting 2,000 jobs over the next year, of spending too much on their chief executive and going on a "jolly to the south of France" - while praising Conservative-run Trafford Council for saving millions of pounds on "back office" costs and by axing "vanity projects".

"If you want lower levels of council tax and good value for money from your council, if you want to make sure money gets to the front line services, vote Conservative on May 5."

"Don't let Labour do to your local council what they did to our country."

The council has rejected the idea it is wasteful and says £55m of efficiency savings have been made over the past two years and it plans to make a further £96m in the next two. It also says back office services face cuts of 35% - in a move to protect frontline services as far as possible.

And Labour leader Ed Miliband has said his party's election message will be built around "we will be your voice in tough times" - arguing reductions in councils' spending power will hit the poorest areas the hardest and pledging to be the "first line of defence" against government spending cuts.

At his local election launch, Mr Miliband said: "Cuts designed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg are coming direct from Downing Street to your street,"

But Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday that it was a "complete caricature" to suggest he did not care about public services and said no government could have preceded without making cuts to tackle the budget deficit: "Labour's own deficit reduction plan requires £14bn of cuts to start this month, we are introducing £16bn of cuts."


He added: "I think when people see by the end of this Parliament that we have done things which were controversial but were necessary in order to set things back on the right track I think people will recognise that we did things with the very best interests of the country at heart."

Mr Cameron also criticised various Labour councils over their handling of street parties to celebrate the Royal Wedding on 29 April - including reports that one had tried to ban music and bouncy castles and another had told one party organiser he would have to "stump up for £5m of public liability insurance".

"This is ridiculous. These pen pushers and busy bodies are completely wrong, they have no right to stop you from having fun and let me put it like this: I'm the prime minister and I'm telling you: If you want to have a street party you go ahead and have one."

Figures released at the close of nominations last week suggest the Lib Dems will see a drop in the number of councillors they are fielding in England - from 63% of seats in 2007 to 59% on 5 May. The Conservatives will contest 93.6% - up from 88.3% while Labour also saw an increase in candidates - notably in the south of the country - from around 60% to more than 71%.

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