Richard Ottaway, local government spokesman, said the Tories would make cronyism and sleaze the highlight of their campaign for the local elections next year. He claimed that at least 30 councils were under investigation for 'fiddling expenses, corruption, incompetence and downright criminal offences'.
The leadership acknowledged the error of the party's ways in stripping councils of power and influence over 18 years in government. Andrew Lansley, Conservative vice-chairman responsible for policy renewal, said the party had to show it had learned lessons from the past. 'Never again must people feel Conservatives have a hatred of local government,' he told a fringe meeting.
Lord Hanningfield, leader of Essex CC and chairman of the newly-formed Conservative Councillors Association, claimed that the party was 'coming home' by rediscovering the value of local government.