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Local government minister Hilary Armstrong today warned of the dangers of Tory successes in the local elections by ...
Local government minister Hilary Armstrong today warned of the dangers of Tory successes in the local elections by default:

'The Tories are quietly and secretly planning a deliberate attempt to undermine the new Labour government's policies for the improvement of our schools.

'The Tory strategy is to deliver severe cuts to local education spending in the councils they control. By causing chaos in local education in London and elsewhere the Conservative aim is to prevent Labour delivering on its pledge to cut class size and raise education standards.

'In Croydon, the Conservatives intend to cut spending by£6m resulting in the loss of 240 teacher jobs, putting class sizes up and threatening the future of primary and secondary schools in the area. Brent Conservatives promise a£10m cut in spending leading to the loss of up to 400 teaching posts. In Barnet Conservative cuts of£9m, threatening the future of half a dozen primary schools or more than 350 classroom teachers are planned.

'The Conservatives have adopted similar tactics in Bolton, Bradford, Cheshire, Ealing, Gloucester, Hackney, St. Helens, Somerset, Southampton, Southwark, Waltham Forest and Wolverhampton, threatening education services across the country.

'The Conservative strategy is systematically to target cuts in services most likely to impact on Labour's priority pledges. In Essex the Tories took control of the county council on 1 April as a result of boundary changes. The Conservatives have cut spending on education to£3m below the government's standard spending level. These cuts were despite an extra£27m channelled into Essex by the Labour government.

'Conservative efforts to undermine the government's pledges to the people are not confined to education. Local social services have an important role to play in avoiding bed-blocking and assisting in reducing NHS waiting lists. Conservative cut spending on Essex social services by£8m.

'It is too easy to dismiss the decisions of Essex Conservatives as the actions of a single rogue council but Essex Tories are led by the most senior Conservative councillor in the country. Paul White leads the Conservatives on the Local Government Association. Essex is the true face of Conservative local government.

'There is more to this than just a return to the usual Tory meanness. The signs of a deliberate attempt to frustrate the government are becoming gradually clearer. William Hague and his team of tacticians seem to have decided that they can not win the national arguments over policy. Instead, they are attempting to wreck the government's programmes locally. The Conservatives are using any power they can gain on local councils to wreck the partnership between local and national government.

'After a year in opposition, the Tories have learned nothing. Despite the popularity of Labour's approach to education, the Tories want to turn the clock back behind the closed doors of the council chamber. That's why William Hague has not asked a single question about schools since the last election. It explains why Stephen Dorrell, always the wettest of Tories, is so disaffected with this 'destructive opposition' that he has decided to throw in the towel. After all, why should he be willing to front a policy which has Alan Duncan's finger prints all over it.

'The message to local people is clear: after a year of education achievements with Labour, don't turn the clock back with the Conservatives.'

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