UK Politics

Elections: Jeremy Corbyn says Tories 'running down country'

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn urges media to focus on 'real issues'

The Conservatives are "running our country down in every way", Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.

He made the claim at his party's local election campaign launch ahead of polls in English councils on 4 May.

"Labour councils are making a difference... stepping up where the government fails to act," he said.

The Labour leader is facing a battle to hold on to council seats with the party lower in the polls than when these councils were last contested.

In his speech at Newark in Nottinghamshire, Mr Corbyn said: "How can you not be angry and demand major change when life expectancy projections have fallen in Britain for pensioners?

"We are a rich country - the sixth richest in the world. We are not at war - there is no epidemic sweeping our land.

"But whether the Conservative Party chair can face the facts or not, life expectancy has actually fallen - by a year for 65-year-old women, and six months for 65-year-old men - since 2013.

"The truth is that the Tories are running our country down."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn said Labour-led Birmingham City Council was boosting housing

However, Number 10 rejected Mr Corbyn's claims and pointed to figures published by the Office of National Statistics, which suggest that life expectancy at age 65 years increased between 1991/1993 and 2012/2014, with the increase greater in England than in Wales.

Conservative Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin MP said: "Labour can't even get their basic facts right - there's no way they would run your council or our country properly. They are out of touch, divided and would leave ordinary working people worse off with their incompetence.

"Across councils and in government it is the Conservative Party that is standing up for ordinary working people - building a stronger, fairer country that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home."

In his speech, Mr Corbyn also claimed that home ownership, opportunities for children, wages and conditions at work, the NHS and care for the elderly were "all going backwards, run down by a Conservative government that looks after those at the top and manages decline for the rest of us".

He said Labour was standing up for people "in every community across the country", by giving examples of his party's successes in local government.

He said Labour-controlled Birmingham City Council had delivered 30% of all new homes in the city, while Lancashire County Council has formed a joint venture to buy 800 affordable homes for sale and social rent.

"This election is your chance to send a message to the Tories that you won't accept our NHS in crisis, your children's future betrayed, a deepening housing crisis, damaging cuts to the police and insecure jobs that don't make ends meet," he said.

Winning message

Local elections will be held in 35 councils in England, all 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 councils in Wales on 4 May 2017.

The latest Guardian/ICM poll suggests Labour support is at 25%, their lowest support in these polls since the 2015 general election and joint equal to their worst performance, in 1983.

Six areas in England are voting for newly-created "combined local authority mayors".

These mayors will mostly be responsible for economic development in their regions, but some will have powers over transport and housing.

Doncaster and North Tyneside are also electing local authority mayors, who are elected leaders of their respective councils.

The Manchester Gorton parliamentary by-election triggered by the death of Labour MP Gerald Kaufman will also take place on 4 May.