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Bob Neill is shadow minister for local government and reports back from this weekend’s Conservative Councillors’ Association Conference.

A record attendance at this year’s Conservative Councillors’ Association Conference and a real enthusiasm to get rid of Labour highlights to me that our Party is in great shape and well prepared for the electoral battles ahead.

The main subject of conversation around the conference is about this failed Labour Government and the real opportunity we have in local government to allow the public to show their opinion of Gordon Brown at the forthcoming Local and European elections in June.  The last electoral test before the General Election.

Preparing for the local government elections is a major part of the conference and today, Eric Pickles will brief the conference on the strategy that many are hoping will remove more Labour controlled councils from the political map.  He will make clear that all Conservative activists, councillors, M.Ps and M.E.Ps will be required to play their part and show that the Conservatives have a winning team that’s campaigning hard across the country and showing why a change of government is so desperately needed next year.

The other main focus of the conference is helping the people that Conservative councillors represent through this recession. Local authorities up and down the country have a real role to play in reducing the burden on families and I am left in no doubt that we are delivering.

My workshop yesterday focussed on this very important issue.  I was
delighted to share the platform with Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh, the
Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council and a man who knows an awful
lot about beating Labour and reducing a bloated and inefficient
bureaucracy. His authority has delivered the savings needed to reduce
council tax for hard pressed residents. 

This zeal for efficiency and innovation was apparent during the session
and it’s the reason why many Conservative council’s were able to freeze
council tax or introduce below inflation rises.  It was also clear that
many get a very raw deal from Government through the funding settlement
so offering value for money is a real achievement for Conservatives
across the country.

There was real enthusiasm when I outlined some of the proposals that we
published in our local government Green Paper, “Control Shift” that are
designed to help businesses and taxpayers.   Working with local
authorities to deliver a council tax freeze and giving councils the
freedom to levy business rate discounts are exactly the kind of
measures that would lighten the burden for families and businesses. 

Merrick Cockell and his team have done a great job in giving us all the
opportunity to prepare for the campaign ahead and share the innovative
ideas that really are helping people at this very difficult time for
the country.

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