On June 4th, people across Britain will go to the polls and decide who runs their councils.
This isn't just any local election - it really matters. It really matters because you can make a difference.
And you can make a difference because it's your best chance to save money and improve your quality of life, your only chance to transform North Tyneside with a dynamic new era of civic leadership and your last chance, until the General Election, to tell Gordon Brown exactly what you think of him and his tired, incompetent and failing Government.
But this will only happen if you vote for change.
<h2>MORE FOR LESS</h2>
Increasingly, that's what people are doing.
Last year, the Conservatives won control of fourteen new councils.
We won over two hundred and fifty new councillors - meaning we now have more in England than Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined. And we won in new areas - proving that for the modern Conservative Party, there really are no no-go areas.
There's a simple reason for all this.
Just as the world has changed, with Labour's decade of debt giving way to the age of austerity, people have changed with it, counting every penny they earn and making it go as far as possible. And they expect the same thrift from their political leaders.
Today, it's Conservative councils that are living up to that expectation. Offering value for money. They are delivering more of the safe, clean and green streets that are so vital to everyone's quality of life for the less tax that is so important for everyone struggling in Labour's Debt Crisis.
More for less.
This goes to the heart of what Conservatives believe. It's the kind of change people really want. And it's what we will be offering Britain in the local elections next month. Let me explain in more detail.
Let me start where people want us to start - with the less.
When every family is tightening their budget, there's nothing worse than a council that is loosening the purse strings. Giving the green light to some pointless scheme. Pursuing a vanity project. Pocketing massive pay deals. This is wrong, wrong, wrong.
And I'm proud that it's Conservatives that are putting it right.
We're the ones that are standing by the pensioner who cannot heat their home, the mother that cannot put food on the table, the family who risk losing the house they love in their hour of need.
It's Conservatives in Westminster City Council that found £500,000 worth of efficiency savings last year. It's Conservative councillors in Essex that will be giving 30,000 £100 council tax rebates to every family with young children and pensioner over the age of eighty. And nationally, on average, it's Conservative-run councils that charge the lowest council taxes.
In the weeks to come, as I travel up and down the country, meeting our candidates and talking to Conservative groups on local councils, my message will be simple:
Whether you're re-elected or new to the job, if you win next June, go through the books, page by page, line by line, see what savings you can make, and do everything you can to get council tax down and help people in Labour's Debt Crisis.
But as well doing everything we can to get council tax down today, we're going to do everything we can to keep it down in the future. That's why the next Conservative Government will freeze council tax for two years by cutting the government advertising budget.
We will give local people the power to stop massive council tax rises with referendums.
We will scrap all those regulations, inspections and red tape which do so much to force councils to increase taxes.
And with our 'Right to Know' plan, we will make sure every item of local spending is published online. There'll be no hiding place for wasteful spending. It will be out there in the open for residents to see and councils to be judged. And it's a vital part of changing the culture of local government so it asks for less from the wallets of families and individuals.
But in addition to asking for less from their constituents, councils have got to ask more of themselves. Is there more that we can be doing with the money we've got? Are there more services we can provide and help we can give? And all the evidence shows that Conservatives are doing more.
Of the councils with the top twenty highest 'overall satisfaction' ratings by residents, sixteen are Conservative and none are Labour or Liberal Democrat controlled. This shouldn't surprise anyone.
Conservative councils are greener, helping improve the local environment and protect green spaces in our neighbourhoods. Like Norfolk County Council, which has brought the countryside to the town, by building more footpaths into rural areas.
Conservative councils are cleaner, with lower levels of the graffiti, fly-posting and fly-tipping that scars so many neighbourhoods. Last year, Peterborough City Council's Spring Clean cleared nearly 240 tonnes of litter and cleaned graffiti from over 800 locations.
And Conservative councils are safer, with lower levels of the crime, anti-social behaviour and vandalism which strikes fear into so many people. It's Conservatives in Cambridgeshire that have introduced a registered traders scheme to stop criminals from conning vulnerable people.
Greener, cleaner, safer.
There's one other vital area where local councils can do more: by giving families and businesses the help and advice they need to fight this recession. Again, Conservatives are leading the way.
Both Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire County Councils have created one-stop-shop websites with recession support services. These range from how to deal with problem debt to getting a new job.
East Sussex County Council has teamed up with Business Link Sussex to develop an intensive program aimed at supporting three hundred local businesses. And Essex County Council has created a Bank of Essex - getting to the heart of the credit crunch by making £30 million of loans available to local businesses.
The practical, the obvious, the ingenious - this is precisely the sort of help people need. And it's precisely the sort of thing I want to see more of.
So as I go up and down the country, telling Conservative candidates to do all they can to keep council tax down, I'm also going to tell them to do all they can to give their families and businesses the support they need to lift themselves up and out of this recession.
That's what I mean when I say Conservatives deliver more for less.
So for those already with a Conservative council, expect more of this value for money. And for those without a Conservative council, use your vote next month to vote for change.
Your second chance for change on June 4th comes right here in North Tyneside. It's one of three places - the others being Hartlepool and Doncaster - where there will be a critical Mayoral election.
We have seen in London, with Boris Johnson, what committed Conservative civic leadership can give our towns and cities.
Economic hope by standing up for local businesses and getting transport moving.
Social strength by fighting back against violence and crime.
And cultural vibrancy by championing the best in local creative talent.
This June, we can give that same leadership - bring that same hope, strength and vibrancy - to North Tyneside.
Our candidate here is Linda Arkley. She's lived in North Tyneside for most of her life. And she's the only person who can bring the change that the families and businesses of North Tyneside are crying out for. Beating a sitting Mayor is a massive ask. But if anyone can, I know Linda can.
In this Party, we believe in localism.
So our local and mayoral election campaigns are being fought exactly where they should be: on every pavement of every city, town and village that will go out and vote next month.
But these elections also have a national importance. With every day that passes, this Government is running our country into the ground.
Borrowing eye-watering amounts of money.
Presiding over social decline.
Letting our politics descend into the quagmire.
I promise you this.
They cannot go one forever. Change in our country will come.
And we can make that great day of change arrive all the sooner, if on June 4th you give this weak, useless and spineless Government a message it won't forget.
With every Conservative vote, that message will be simple: Enough is enough. You're the past.
It's time to go and make way for the only party that has faith in Britain and the British people, that believes our best days lie ahead of us, and has the ideas, plans and policies to deliver them.
The party that will build the NHS and improve it for everyone.
The party that will radically reform our schools and welfare system and strengthen our families so we fix our broken society.
The party that will create a modern, dynamic economy with the industries and jobs of the future.
That party is the Conservative Party - and that's the change we will bring to our country.
<h2>VOTE FOR CHANGE</h2>
So our message this local election is simple: Vote for Change.
For change in local communities without Conservative councils - so we help families and businesses through this recession.
For change in North Tyneside, Doncaster and Hartlepool - so we bring real civic leadership to their people.
And change for our country - so we build a better future.
On June 4th, vote for change.