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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Tories have 'mountain to climb'
David Cameron and Michael Heseltine
The new Tory leader is using the conference to focus on the cities
David Cameron has told the Conservative spring conference his party has a "huge mountain to climb" in the inner cities.

Key local elections in London and other urban centres are to be held on 4 May and Mr Cameron said he wanted to give people more power over their lives.

"We have got so much to offer our cities because ... it is all about our values which is trusting people."

But he warned that there would be no Tory revival if the party just talked - they had to offer a clear vision.

But Labour chairman Ian McCartney said that Mr Cameron's "warm words" about cities were in stark contrast to the record of the party.

"Under the Tories, communities up and down the country declined through lack of investment. Unemployment doubled and hit three million twice and the two worst recessions since the Second World War left a damaging legacy in our cities.

"David Cameron was at Norman Lamont's side at the Treasury on Black Wednesday when interest rates hit 15 per cent," he said.

In his address to the Tory conference Mr Cameron said: "The Conservatives are back in our cities. But we have a huge mountain climb. We have a huge way to go. And we won't achieve a revival just by talking about it or campaigning."

He said the party had to focus on a clear set of priorities: safer streets, good schools, better housing and economic regeneration.

Personal responsibility?

Labour had made urban regeneration "far too complicated", he added, and the Tories would hand power back to communities.

Citing a project he had visited in Balsall Heath in Birmingham, where local people had banded together to drive prosititutes and drug dealers from their community, he said the key to urban renewal was people and what he called "social entrepreneurs".

These are "people every bit as enterprising as Richard Branson" but who had chosen to use their entrepreneurial drive to improve their communities, he said.

Earlier, Conservative chairman Francis Maude urged Conservative activists not to expect Mr Cameron to "carry the entire burden of persuading people that we have changed".

"We must all take personal responsibility for the success of our shared values, not contract it all out to the leader."

He said the party had to become an "outward looking, future-facing modern compassionate party" in order to win power.

Real freedom?

Lord Heseltine meanwhile is set to use his speech to call for a radical rethink of local government.

He wants elected "superbosses" to run things instead of a combination of council leaders and unelected chief executives.

Lord Heseltine was asked by Margaret Thatcher to regenerate Liverpool after the Toxteth riots. He now heads David Cameron's inner cities task force.

The former deputy prime minister will tell the 1,500 hundred Conservative representatives: "The chief executive of a major city is paid in the order of 150,000-200,000 per annum. He or she will be among the highest paid people in most cities.

"If they are not capable of doing the job there should be a system to replace them by someone who is. If they are capable, why should Whitehall double or triple guess every decision they make? We should give them real freedom to serve local people as local people determine."

Mr Maude opened the conference and warning of the "challenges ahead for the party". That comes the day after he said: "It's not being defeatist to say we may not win the next election."

Mr Cameron was asked about these remarks as he arrived in Manchester and gave his full backing to Mr Maude.

"I think Francis was right. Politicians shouldn't go around saying we are going to do this or that. It's not in our hands."

The Conservative leader said the conference was about the changes he was making to the party and about getting his party "back into our cities".

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