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The Labour and Conservative parties open their campaigns this morning for next month's local elections. ...
The Labour and Conservative parties open their campaigns this morning for next month's local elections.

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%'.

But Conservative party chairman Brian Mawhinney said it cost Band D householders £225 a year more on average to live in a Labour-controlled authority than under a comparable Conservative council and £140 more in a Liberal Democrat authority. He said the standard spending assessment formula took account of differences in authorities' relative problems and taxable base.

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'.

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