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Oliver Dowden is Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party and Member of Parliament for Hertsmere.

We are living in historic but challenging times. A global pandemic followed by war in Europe have left us with rising inflation and rocketing energy costs.

The effects are being felt across Britain, every time someone fills up their car, does their weekly shop, or opens their monthly bills.

So the cost of living is the first thing people want to talk about when I knock on doors. Across the country the questions are the same. How am I going to afford to get through the next year? How are you going to help me?

My answer – as I embark today on another tour of crucial council seats, including in Staffordshire, Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders, Northumberland and Newcastle – remains the same. There is something very simple you can do right now to keep your cost of living down: vote Conservative at the local elections on May 5.

Conservative councils charge the lowest taxes in the country, yet they deliver more.

You can see the evidence on your street – Conservatives recycle more waste than Labour and fix four times as many potholes. And you can see it in how they care for the young and vulnerable, with the only children’s services rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted being those run by Conservatives.

How are we able to do this? For a start we have a better record of collecting the taxes that are owed, so hardworking people don’t have to subsidise those who don’t pay.

But more than that: we get the big calls right and take the difficult decisions needed to grow our economy.

Thanks to our strong economic stewardship we have been able to give residents a veto over excessive council tax increases and, this year, offer households a £150 rebate.

And at the same time we have increased government funding to councils faster than at any point in the past decade. That is enabling them to help level up the country, spreading opportunity far and wide.

In fact, councils are at the forefront of that mission, giving people the skills they need, building the homes they want to buy, regenerating the local areas they live in, and, ultimately, ensuring they don’t have to sell their homes if they need care in the future.

We have been able to go further on the cost of living too, offering a record increase in the living wage, cutting fuel duty, reducing the universal credit taper rate, and delivering the biggest net cut in people’s taxes in a quarter of a century.

Behind this lies the age-old Conservative principle of cutting people’s taxes to make work pay. I’ve always been clear that the single best answer to the cost of living is more better-paid jobs.

But these things just would not be happening if the Prime Minister had not made the big calls through the pandemic. The fact that we protected jobs, rolled out the fastest vaccination programme in Europe, and opened up when we did has meant that our GDP has grown faster than any other country in the G7, and unemployment is back down to pre-pandemic levels.

I well remember the difficult decisions we as a Cabinet had to take in the run up to Christmas, where Labour, the Liberal Democrats and others were demanding we push Britain back into lockdown. And now the outcome of that decision is clear: we were right and they were wrong.

Labour’s management of local government is what you’d expect from a party who doubled council tax when they were in power. Today, they charge the highest rates in the country. Some examples are eye watering – £2,000 a year for the residents of Hyndburn, where the average house price is £91,000.

Wales have it worse; council tax has trebled there under Labour. The party even wants to make lone parents, widows and widowers pay more, with their proposals to scrap the single person discount.

Meanwhile Labour have driven local authorities to the brink of bankruptcy while giving their councillors above-inflation pay rises. More often than not, hard-earned taxpayers’ cash is wasted on dodgy investments and woke vanity projects, like pulling down statues and renaming streets.

Perhaps “Rip-Off Road” or “Squander Street” would work in the Labour-run borough of Merton, where residents pay a whopping £900 more a year than their neighbours in Conservative-controlled Wandsworth.

It’s a similar story with Lib Dem councils, who have the distinction of being the first party to charge more than £2,000 for council tax in London, in Kingston. That is more than double what residents pay in Westminster. Pity those in Teignbridge and North Devon who are forced to spend more than ten per cent of the average salary there on their local rates.

In Scotland, the SNP have removed the cap altogether, giving councillors carte blanche to jack up taxes.

When it comes to the choice before us at these elections, our councillors’ desire for value, efficiency and lower taxes is what sets us apart from the others. We want to give working people the freedom to spend their own money.

Indeed, freedom is a thread that runs through all we do.

We are strong on defence and tough on crime because we want people to their lives free from fear and tyranny. We take a common-sense line on issues of culture and identity because we want people to be able to live their lives how they wish, but also to know that they can speak their minds without being descended upon by woke warriors.

For those on the left, government knows best. But our trust is, and always has been, in people.

We know we face challenges in this set of elections: we have been in government for more than a decade and that we are at a ‘mid term’ stage which is always tough. Increasingly people are saying to me that they are sick of hearing about Westminster politics and just want to see politicians focused on what is happening in their lives where they live.

That’s why our message is that we are getting on with the job of delivering on the people’s priorities. What will make a difference in today’s cost of living crisis is not political games in SW1, but who runs your town hall.

And that’s why we need to help hardworking local Conservatives get elected again across the country in May.

So this is my message. At a time of rising costs, why risk paying more for less with Labour and the Lib Dems when you can get a better deal with the Conservatives? You can make that difference, by voting Conservative on May 5.