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William Hague launches Local Government manifesto

Speaking in Westminster at the launch of the Conservative Party's Local Government manifesto, the Rt Hon William Hague MP, Leader of the Conservative Party:

"Today, we are launching the Conservative Manifesto for the local government elections that are taking place on 7 June.

"Few things are more important to people than the state of their immediate neighbourhood, things like litter, graffiti, noisy neighbours, their local services and how much they cost.

"But Labour want these to be the forgotten elections, because they want people to forget their appalling record in local government. They have weakened local government and made it more expensive. Now their only solution is to abolish county councils and replace them with regional government.

"Conservatives will ensure that these are not the forgotten elections. Even though there might be two elections on 7 June, there is one Conservative campaign.

"And Conservatives are ready to win.

"We are ready to win because of the example set by well-run, efficient, value for money Conservative councils.

"We are ready to win because since last June we've led the field in the number of votes cast in real elections.

"We are ready to win because as a result of our successes we are now the largest party of local government in County Councils and in district councils and have 2,500 more councillors and control four times as many councils as we did four years ago.

"And we are ready to win because just as we have the miserable record of failure by Labour and the Liberals at a national level, we have the same record of Labour and Liberal failure, incompetence, arrogance, mismanagement and inefficiency in local government.

"Because it makes no difference where Labour politicians are given the opportunity to govern. In Whitehall or the Town Hall the story is exactly the same. Higher taxes on those who can least afford to pay, and poorer services for those who need them most. All spin and no delivery.

"We see the lies, the deceptions, the distortions, the broken promises, the cronyism and the sleaze in Tony Blair's New Labour Government. And we've seen exactly the same behaviour every day in Labour and Liberal run councils the length and breadth of Britain.

"We've seen how on top of all their other stealth taxes such as on petrol, marriage, mortgages and pensions, Labour have engineered a 31 per cent increase in people's Council Tax.

"We've seen how Labour have turned the Council Tax into one of the most vicious of all stealth taxes, engineered by central government, but with councils rather than the Government facing the anger of local residents as their bills to soar.

"We've seen how Gordon Brown's stealth taxes - like higher fuel tax and the landfill tax and the raid on pensions - have contributed to the increase in Council Taxes for Band D properties by an average of £212 since Labour came to power.

"We've seen the badly run Labour councils that charge an average extra £88 more a year on Band D properties than the average Conservative council.

"A 31 per cent rise in yet another stealth tax resulting in an increase of £212 for people in Band D properties. That's Labour's record in local government.

"The Audit Commission has shown that Labour and Liberal Councils provide worse standards of service at a higher price. They have dirtier streets, poorer street lighting, pay less of their bills on time, have more empty council houses, collect less of their rent and Council Tax and have worse school exam results. They are a national disgrace.

"The Manifesto we are launching this morning re-affirms the Conservative commitment to local government. It sets out policies that will provide local communities with efficient, responsible, transparent and accountable local government, delivering the services people want at a price they can afford.

"It is a manifesto that makes clear above all that only Conservative councils will deliver lower taxes, better quality services and a better quality of life.

"And it is a Manifesto for decentralising power away from central government and back to local communities and neighbourhoods.

"In contrast to the meddling, interference and nanny state culture of Labour, Conservatives will put power back into the hands of people who best understand local concerns. We will trust the people. And we will deliver common sense.

"We will establish free schools that put parents and teachers in charge and allows them to set their own admissions policies and impose their own discipline.

"We will introduce greater powers to deal with so-called "neighbours from hell". There will be a process of fast-track eviction for those tenants who never pay their rent, fail to look after their homes and continually breach their tenancy agreements. Housing Associations should be able to know whether new tenants have records of past bad behaviour and be able to put them on probation.

"We will save our green fields and stop Labour's plans to bulldoze or countryside with their plans to build the wrong houses in the wrong places. Within weeks of taking office the next Conservative Government will abolish Labour's national and regional housebuilding targets and give local people the discretion to determine the right level of local development in their area.

"We will create free councils so that responsible and efficient councils are given greater financial freedoms and are subject to less government control.

"We will make councils more accountable to local people for the money they spend and not use Whitehall's capping powers.

"We have been listening and learning. Conservatives now understand that getting big government off the back of people requires trusting local communities. Restoring faith in politics means moving government closer to the people. Strengthening the role of local councils and local communities is the way to achieve this.

"That is the Conservative common sense approach to local government. It is an approach that will take us to victory on 7 June."

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