'The Conservative party is changing. We are changing our institutions and our structures. We are changing our culture. We are renewing our policies. Today we are taking a further step forward to integrate young councillors into our local government organisation.
'Nowhere is change taking place more quickly than in local government. Too often treated in the past as second class citizens, in future our councillors will be at the forefront of our Partys development.
'Conservative councillors will help us to change our culture and to renew our policies. They will be the pioneers of popular Conservatism - a Conservatism which is rooted in the local community.
'Only the Conservative party could launch an organisation like this. For it is in the Conservative party that these local government leaders of the future belong. Unlike Labour, Conservatives are not afraid of fresh thinking. Unlike Labour, we do not seek to stifle fresh ideas.
'It was Conservative councillors who prepared the way for many of the successful national reforms of the 1980s - for the Right to Buy; for rigorous standards and testing in our schools; for competitive tendering and value for money. Successful councillors - such as Sir Paul Beresford, Chris Chope and Eric Pickles - have gone on to serve the party at a national level.
'The Conservative party has been home to a generation of pioneering councillors in the past. And today is another landmark as we move to the Conservative party of the future. For I want Conservatives in local government - whether young or old - to be the pioneers of the fresh future in local government which only the Conservative party can provide.
'Our message to young Conservative councillors is clear: we will listen to your opinions, we will follow your example; you are the pioneers of the Conservative future.
'And our message to the electorate this May is clear. In local government the Conservative party is the party of progress. It has been Conservative councils who have led the way by pioneering new services and new ideas in local government.
To launch the Network, William Hague is meeting 37 Conservative councillors or council candidates who are as young as, or younger than, the leader.
The Young Tory Councillors (YTC) Network is based on a successful pilot initiative which has operated since the autumn:
- The network will be informal and decentralised. It will allow maximum participation by young councillors and council candidates themselves.
- Key councillors will be identified in each region, who will spearhead the initiative locally. YCT groups will organise discussions and social events and will share good practice in campaigning and policy formulation. They will also hold regular informal meetings with senior Conservatives at a national level.
- The new Conservative Councillors Association - and local constituency associations - will be asked to make recruiting young councillors and candidates a top priority. Members of parliament will be asked to give positive support to YTC groups in their areas.
- All young council candidates will automatically be offered a place on the party's new training programme for council candidates, Working to Win.