Shadow local government minister Nigel Waterson is reported as saying in his speech to the Conservative Party conference yesterday that 'We look forward to restoring the Conservatives as the first party of local government.
'There were times when the last Conservative government undervalued local government and was too quick to interfere and preach.
'All that has changed. William Hague has set us a goal. It is an ambitious one....to bring about a real renaissance in local government.'
Meanwhile also at the conference shadow environment secretary John Redwood attacked Labour for splitting Britain into the haves and the have nots, reports the Financial Times (p7).
Although admitting the Conservatives were in power when regional divisions opened, he said of Labour: 'They want to shatter it into regions. Split it into the haves and have-nots. Then transfer the whole thing to Brussels.'
Local government minister Hilary Armstrong hit back: 'The Conservative party invented the north-south divide with their policies under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and now William Hague would make matters worse.'
Mr Redwood also proposed councils should be given more powers to block development on greenfield sites.
Mr Waterson's speech follows:
WATERSON BACKS PARISH COUNCILS
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool, shadow local government minister Nigel Waterson attacked Labour plans to scrap parish councils. Nigel Waterson said:
'Not only is this another example of the Labour government's ignorance of the countryside, it also exhibits their control freak tendency yet again. We MPs who work closely with parish councils know that they are often vigorous and independently minded examples of grass roots democracy. To abolish them would be utter folly.
'By contrast, it is Conservative policy to revive local government at all levels, by giving local councils new powers and responsibilities. We want to devolve much more power to local level, especially on issues like planning. That is the best way to encourage more people to take an interest in local politics and to vote in local elections.
'This Labour government simply does not trust local government - as shown by its intention to impose unsuitable new structures on many councils, as well as by their attack on parish councils. My colleagues and I are determined to fight these proposals.'