According to Conservative Party figures, Tories will stand in 84% of seats compared to 78% in 1999. By contrast Labour candidates are standing in only 66% of seats compared to 78% in 1999. Liberal Democrats will stand in 65%, compared to 64% in 1999.
However, the Labour Party says the Tory figures leave out the Scottish local elections. If these are factored in Labour is contesting 68% of seats, while the Conservatives are contesting a lower percentage overall than in England alone.
Conservative Party chairman Theresa May said: 'Many people will question if [the removal of Labour Party chairman John Reid] is as a result of his failure to field
Howard Sykes, chief executive of the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors, said: 'I think Labour are having some problems with their activists. They are halfway through a second term and a bit of the shine is beginning to come off.'
But he added: 'It is a question of how many seats you win, not how many candidates you stand. The Conservatives are only projecting 30 net gains.'
Of 23 council by-elections since January, the Conservatives have won none, while the Lib Dems have net gains of five and Labour net losses of six.
A Labour spokesman said: 'The Tories are trying to make capital out of a pretty pressing issue, that faces all political parties, finding suitable candidates to fill thousands and thousands and thousands of council seats. It is a deeper but more boring issue than they're trying to make it.'
Tories advertised in the local media for new members who could immediately become candidates, he claimed, while Labour made its members wait at least a year.
Both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are capitalising on soaring council tax
rises under Labour in their local election campaigns. Labour has yet to start its