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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
UKIP launches local poll campaign
John Whittaker, one of UKIP's MEPs
Mr Whittaker says UKIP stand for civil pride
The UK Independence Party says it is now taking local council elections seriously as it tries to show it is no longer just a single issue group.

Officials say they expect to field at least 300 candidates in the polls.

MEP John Whittaker said he would be delighted if UKIP helped Labour win seats off the Tories to show David Cameron he was taking the wrong tack.

About 4,360 council seats are up for grabs in England in May's elections, including all of London councils.

'Broader message'

UKIP's local election coordinator Jonathan Arnott said 200 council candidates were already fighting campaigns and another 100 were "paper candidates".

He hoped further recruits would take the total number of candidates up to 500.

Cut council tax by half
Let local people call binding local referendums on major issues
Give councils control of business rates and let them receive stamp duty

The drive is part of UKIP's efforts to show voters their message goes beyond their core call for the UK to leave the European Union.

Mr Arnott said: "It has taken us a long time to get used to the idea that there is a lot more that the UK Independence Party must be talking about.

"We are at a stage now where we recognise the importance of local government."

The party would be targeting 20 council wards in this year's polls and hoped to win seats, he said. But it was really building towards the elections in 2007 and 2008.


UKIP officials estimate they have between 30 and 50 district and borough councillors.

They say they cannot give an exact figure because the issue is in the hands of local UKIP branches rather than the party centrally.

Some of current councillors defected to the party rather than being elected in its colours.

Party chairman David Campbell Bannerman denied the election campaign was unambitious and UKIP would be pursuing an "enormous agenda" of reigniting local democracy.

Mr Whittaker, an MEP in north-west England, said Warrington was being targeted by the party and he would be happy to see UKIP help Labour oust the Tories from council control.

"The Conservatives need to learn that they need to move in a direction the British people want and if they are pushed out by us because they refuse to do that then we will be delighted," he said.

'Half council tax bills'

The Tories had moved away from Middle England and deserted core Conservative voters, he argued.

"UKIP stands for the restoration of civil pride, helping people to feel they are part of the local community," said Mr Whittaker.

The party is calling for councils to be given back control of business rates and also receive stamp duty on homes sold in their areas.

They also say they would cut council tax by half and let local people call a binding local referendum on any major issue.

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