Shadow environment secretary Frank Dobson said voters would chose Labour because they liked the party's policies, not merely to oppose the Conservatives.
He claimed: 'All the evidence around the country is that when people get experience of a Labour council they like what they have got. Last year we gained control of 38 councils.
'The government was aiming for an average 8% increase in council tax - William Waldegrave said so, so it must be true - and the new Labour councils we took control of last year came in at just under 6%'.
And Dr Mawhinney claimed the most inefficient councils - those with the biggest debt and worst records in council tax collection and education - were Labour-controlled.
But he conceded: 'I grant you that these local elections for us will be a challenge because we are defending seats which we won four years ago in the immediate aftermath of the general election victory'.