Party leader Michael Howard has promised to halt Tony Blair's latest stealth tax by cancelling a revaluation of domestic properties which is expected to result in seven million homes moving into a higher council tax band.
Mr Howard declared: 'We will stop Mr Blair's next stealth tax dead in its tracks by cancelling revaluation. Based on what happened in Wales, this will save seven million homes in England from paying more -£270 more, each and every year, for the typical household.'
The commitment is part of a straight-forward five point action plan designed to keep your council tax down. This involves easing the burden on councils, by abolishing unnecessary and costly regulations; ensuring fairer funding from Whitehall, by introducing greater transparency over grant distribution; delivering a fully-funded settlement for local government, with an above-inflation increase for local councils, and significant increases for schools, police and health and social services; halving council tax bills for the elderly by reducing the charge levied on millions of adults aged 65 and over by up to£500 a year; and by scrapping the planned property revaluation throughout England.
Denouncing the way Labour has hammered home owners with relentless council tax increases, and warning that Liberal Democrat plans to replace the council tax with a local income tax would cost a typical hardworking family in England, with two earners, at least£600 more, he said:
'I believe in rewarding families who work hard and do the right thing. So I am going to stop Mr Blair's next stealth tax by cancelling revaluation. While he has talked, families have been struggling - last year, for the first time in a decade, their average incomes fell thanks to Mr Blair's stealth taxes. The most punishing of all Labour's stealth taxes has been the council tax.
'For most families, their home is their most valuable asset. It's the bedrock of their security - both financial security and personal security. But Mr Blair has used people's homes as a means of taxing them by stealth. Most people will have just opened their council tax bills with horror. Well, my message to them is clear: you don't have to settle for this. You can make a difference. You can vote to stop the relentless rise in council tax.'
Michael Howard launches local government manifesto (available on LGCnet)
Speaking at a campaign press conference to launch the local government manifesto, Conservative Party leader, Michael Howard said:
'Today I am setting out how we are going to help families.
Apparently, Mr Blair is talking about helping families too.
That's it - more talk.
He has spent the last eight years talking but he has failed to act on what matters - fighting crime, school discipline, cleaner hospitals, controlled immigration, and lower taxes.
And while he has talked families have been struggling - last year, for the first time in a decade, their average incomes fell thanks to Mr. Blair's stealth taxes.
And the most punishing of all Labour's stealth taxes has been the Council Tax.
For most families, their home is their most valuable asset.
It's the bedrock of their security - both financial security and personal security.
But Mr. Blair has used people's homes as a means of taxing them by stealth.
Most people will have just opened their Council Tax bills with horror.
My message to them is clear: you don't have to settle for this.
You can make a difference.
You can vote to stop the relentless rise in Council Tax.
Today we are publishing our Manifesto for the local government elections on May the fifth: it's all about lower taxes and local accountability.
Conservatives have a simple five point action plan to keep your Council Tax down.
First, we will ease the burden on councils, so they can keep Council Tax down, by abolishing unnecessary and costly regulations.
Second, we will ensure fairer funding from Whitehall, by introducing greater transparency over grant distribution.
Third, we will deliver a fully-funded settlement for local government, with an above-inflation increase for local councils, and significant increases for schools, police and health and social services.
Fourth, we will stop Mr Blair's next stealth tax dead in its tracks by cancelling revaluation.
Based on what happened in Wales, this will save seven million homes in England from paying more -£270 more, each and every year, for the typical household.
Fifth, if you are 65 or over, and live alone or with adults also aged 65 plus, we will halve your council tax, saving you up to a maximum of£500. Millions of pensioners will benefit.
So the choice is clear on May 5th.
Voting Labour threatens to push many typical Band D Council Tax bills to over£2,000 after another five years of Mr. Blair.
So a vote for Labour's candidate is a vote for higher taxes and more waste.
Voting Liberal Democrat means a typical hardworking family in England, with two earners, would pay more than£600 on top of their existing bill every year under their local income tax.
So a vote for the Liberal Democrats would hit millions of hard-working families - especially where the mother has a job.
Voting Conservative brings lower council tax bills. For a typical hardworking family on Band D, Conservative councils cost£74 a year less than Labour and£80 a year less than Liberal Democrats.
That's why a vote for the Conservatives will give you lower taxes and value for money.
It's all about fair play - if you do the right thing, government should do the right thing by you; if you save, government should reward you; and if you help yourself, government should help you.
A Conservative Government will reward hard working families who do the right thing - who play by the rules, work hard, save to buy a home and put money aside for their retirement.'
Caroline Spelman, shadow secretary of state for devolved and local government said:
'Thanks very much Michael and thank you for coming here today. Let me also take this opportunity to welcome Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the Local Government Association and leader of Kent County Council, and Nick Skellet, leader of Surrey County Council and county councillor representative on the board of Conservative Councillors Association.
The Conservative Manifesto for Local Government is a positive programme to give power to local communities and protect them from the kind of over-taxation they've suffered under Labour.
That's the good news. The bad news is that for people already suffering under excessive council tax bills, Mr Blair plans to send them higher if he is re-elected.
He's got a plan. It's called revaluation. And it will be the most unfair and expensive stealth tax that Labour has yet invented.
It's no coincidence that revaluation will not take place in England until after the general election. When it happened in Wales recently, one home in every three was pushed up a band. In some wards, ninety percent of houses were affected.
Some commentators think that Labour could raise up to£2 billion through revaluation - not to improve local services but to help fill Gordon Brown's black hole.
Labour also wants to increase the number of bands in order to have greater flexibility to increase the burden on local householders.
Taken together, this is a ticking council tax timebomb, primed to go off on people's doorsteps after Mr Blair has faced the electorate.
There's only one way to diffuse it - and that's to vote Conservative.
We pledge to cancel the council tax revaluation in England. This will save£100 million in administration and prevent hardship for many people.
As Michael has said, Conservatives are particularly worried about pensioners who've been hit so hard by council tax rises.
There's something particularly unjust about older, who've saved hard all their lives and budgeted carefully for retirement, being put under pressure in their later years by huge increases in tax.
But we're not just offering just tea and sympathy - we're planning to halve the council tax bills of millions of pensioners.
This is a carefully costed and compassionate measure, funded by central government, that'll benefit five million pensioners, with no-one losing out. And the poorest council tax payers will benefit the most.
Conservatives in local government care about value for money and keeping decision making close to communities.
That's why we intend to abolish John Prescott's unelected regional assemblies and other assorted tiers of regional administration.
This will have two distinct benefits.
First, this will deliver cost savings.
The anonymous regional chambers set up by Labour have no accountability, no mandate and no legitimacy - but they certainly cost money. They're divisive and undemocratic talking shops.
Add to that the bewildering assortment of Regional Housing Boards, Regional Observatories, Regional Sports Boards, Regional Tobacco Control Managers and Regional Transport Boards - all of which we'd abolish - and it's obvious that public money is being wasted on a grand scale.
Second, we'll bring government closer to the people.
It's a shame that Mr Blair has paid so little attention to the result of last November's referendum held in the North East of England. The vote was supposed to cement in place Labour's new regionalism by giving democratic legitimacy to the bloated bureaucracies that have mushroomed in recent years.
Instead, despite frantic lobbying and large scale spending by the political establishment in the area, local grassroots campaigners, backed by the Conservatives, scored a notable triumph and the plan was defeated at the polls.
The reason for the result is clear. People want their local government to be run by people who live in, work in and are accountable to the local community.
Labour has achieved the opposite by pushing power away from elected councils into the hands of unelected regional bureaucracies.
The essential task for a Conservative government will be to hand back the powers snatched by regional quangos. Instead, councils will be encouraged, but not instructed, to work together in clusters on matters which cross local authority boundaries.
Local government is a subject where voters have a genuine choice.
Labour is the party that wants councils to cede more responsibilities to regional bureaucracies, undermine their remaining powers by imposing central diktats from Whitehall and force council tax payers to pay for Mr Blair's spending plans.
The Liberal Democrats are the party that voted for Mr Blair's rigged revaluation, support regional government and promote a tax that will put up local bills by hundreds of pounds.
In contrast, the Conservatives are the party that will keep quality of provision up, council tax bills down and revaluation out.
So for local government by local people at a reasonable cost - vote Conservative.'
* Conservative research on the election 'battlegrounds' is available here.