UK Politics

Corbyn: Council polls can be 'turning point' for Labour

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Labour will be defending seats in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sunderland

Jeremy Corbyn has said he wants May's English council elections to mark a "turning point" in Labour's fortunes.

Launching its campaign, he said Labour must stand up against cuts to services and show a different way of running the country "for the good of all".

He criticised the government's record on housing, benefit cuts and low pay and plans for more academy schools.

The 5 May elections are the first UK-wide ballot box test for Mr Corbyn since his election last September.

As well as the local authority elections in England, polls are also being held for the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations as well as to elect a London mayor and police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.

Labour made big gains at the expense of the Conservatives and Lib Dems the last time these seats on 124 councils in England were contested in 2012.

'Socially cleansed'

Mr Corbyn will be hoping to hang on to those gains and make progress in the south of England and the Midlands - areas where Labour did poorly in last year's general election - to silence internal criticism of the party's electability under his leadership.

In a speech in Labour-controlled Harlow, Mr Corbyn said he was the first Labour leader for 80 years who had served as a councillor and had personal experience of the role they played.

Accusing Conservative town halls of stripping out services and turning many areas into "cultural deserts", he said a Labour council was "the best protection" against an "onslaught" of cuts.

A visit to Bristol had shown him people being "socially cleansed out of a community they have lived in for many, many years" due to rising rents, with the same happening in cities across the country, he said.

'Better way'

Labour councils, Mr Corbyn said, were "standing up" for residents by introducing a "genuine living wage" for town hall staff and insisting it is matched by council contractors.

"Even in the toughest of times it is Labour councils that are making better choices."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Critics of the Labour leader believe he does not have a wide enough electoral appeal

He praised Labour town halls' record on building council housing but argued more needs to be done across the country to increase the supply of affordable homes.

He urged activists to take Labour's message to "every doorstep" in the country.

"Let May 5 be the turning point when Labour grew, Labour got support and Labour showed there is a different, much better way of running this country for the good of all not just for the benefit of the very few wealthy people who have had it easy for too long."

In the speech, he also urged the government to "act now to save the steel industry" by bringing forward £35bn of infrastructure projects using British steel.

"This industry is too important to our manufacturing economy and our security to fail," he said.

"This government's ideological allergy to public ownership is stopping it taking the steps needed to save steel."

The Conservatives hit back at Mr Corbyn's attack on their housing policies, saying the government had doubled the housing budget with the number of new homes up by 25% in the past year.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: 'The Labour Party left the lowest level of housebuilding since the 1920s and has opposed every measure this government has taken to boost ownership and supply."

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