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'USER POWER' AT HEART OF TORY ELECTION MANIFESTO

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Conservatives put power in the hands of the users of local services, party chairman Sir Norman Fowler claimed on We...
Conservatives put power in the hands of the users of local services, party chairman Sir Norman Fowler claimed on Wednesday at the launch of the Tories' local election manifesto.

Sitting under the slogan 'Making councils work for you' Mr Fowler said: 'Conservatives across the country are giving power in schools to parents, teachers and governors, and control of housing estates to the tenants. Putting power back where it belongs, in the hands of the people who use local services'. He accused Labour and the Liberal Democrats of waste, bureaucracy and excess in councils.

Labour and Conservatives revisited the argument over whose council tax bills were lower. Environment Secretary John Gummer claimed Labour councils cost £148 more for a band D property while Liberal Democrat councils were £76 more expensive.

Shadow Environment Secretary Jack Straw said the average Labour bill was £40 lower than the Tories. 'Desperation is now taking over the Tory campaign', he said.

The Conservatives are talking down their prospects even though they are contesting seats which were last up for election in 1990.

All 32 London boroughs are going to the polls (1,915 seats) along with a third of metropolitan district seats (827) and a third of the seats in 114 English shire districts (1,712). In Wales a third of the seats are up for election in four districts (55) while all 524 seats on the 12 Scottish regional and island councils are up.

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