PM launches local elections push
David Cameron will take to the local election trail with an appeal for the votes of "hard-working people".
The Prime Minister is formally launching the Conservative campaign for the May 2 polls across England and Wales. He is under pressure from restive backbenchers to deliver a decent showing but activists are braced for significant losses.
In the face of a mounting threat from the UK Independence Party he is expected to hail progress on welfare reform, immigration and cutting income tax. And he will defend the record of Tory councils branded wasteful by his Liberal Democrat deputy Nick Clegg as the coalition parties gear up for a series of bruising head-to-head contests.
In a speech in Warwickshire, he will tell party members: "Remember what we're fighting for. Yes, we're fighting for our councils but it's about more than that. We're rebuilding our country. Backing hard-working people. Making this a country where if you work hard and do the right thing, you will get on."
Mr Cameron's appearance on the campaign trail marks a resumption of hostilities after the death of Baroness Thatcher was marked by a relative lull.
Aides said he would insist Tory-led town halls run better services and highlight what he sees as key achievements of the coalition administration in Westminster. They will include job creation, progress on reducing the deficit, cuts in the income tax threshold and capping benefits.
Giving the speech in Warwickshire will allow Mr Cameron to highlight the Government's scheme to encourage local authorities in England to freeze council tax bills by providing central cash to cushion the cut in real-terms income.
But although it has helped keep the average rise to a below-inflation 0.8% across the country this year, many Conservative authorities are among the third of the total which have rejected the offer.
Pressure on Mr Cameron to deliver a good result was heightened by the party's slump to third place behind both the Lib Dems and Ukip in the Eastleigh parliamentary by-election. Nigel Farage's Eurosceptic party is fielding a record number of candidates - just 10 fewer than the Lib Dems - as it seeks to build on that result and unprecedented opinion poll ratings.
Labour is expected to make significant gains among the 2,449 seats up for grabs as they were last fought for in 2009 when Gordon Brown's government was unpopular nationally. In total there are 35 polls for county councils and unitary authorities.