Jeremy Corbyn has urged voters to use Thursday’s local elections in England to send a message to the government to stop cutting council budgets.
The Labour leader said eight years of Conservative austerity had cut services to the bone in many areas.
Labour councils, he insisted, were standing up for increased investment in the NHS, social care and housing.
With 150 councils having elections, Labour is hoping to make gains, particularly across London .
Labour is defending more seats than any other party, 2,275 in total, reflecting its strong performance in 2014 when they were last contested.
Opposition parties historically do well in local elections, which are often used as an opportunity to punish the government of the day.
Thursday’s polls will be seen as a barometer of whether Labour can perform strongly in areas where it fell short in last year’s general election and in which it needs to make headway to form the next government.
Targets include Swindon, Plymouth and Trafford, currently run by the Conservatives, and a number of local authorities – such as Calderdale, Kirklees and Dudley – that no party currently controls.
In London, where Labour already holds 58% of council seats, the party has Barnet and Wandsworth councils in their sights. The pro-Corbyn Momentum group is playing a key role in canvassing on the ground in the capital.
Mr Corbyn said Labour was campaigning to reverse what he said had been deep cuts to local authority funding since 2010.
“We have had eight years of attacks on local government by central government and the underfunding of services,” he said. “A lot of people have lost their jobs and outsourcing
“Labour councils are standing up for their communities but above all giving a message to central government ‘if you want good quality local services, central government has to be there to support them.
“You cannot expect good services if you are cutting, in some cases, by half the amount of central government money that goes to communities.”
Conservative chair Brandon Lewis has conceded the polls will be “difficult” for his party but hopes its message that Tory councils provide better value for money will resonate on door steps.
What elections are there on Thursday?
Voters go to the polls across England on 3 May for local elections with seats on about 150 unitary authorities, metropolitan, district and borough councils up for grabs.
In some councils, all the seats are being contested while, in others, a third of councillors are up for re-election. The majority of the seats being fought for were last elected in 2014.
Councils are responsible for a range of local services, including schools, parking, leisure facilities and recycling – which they fund through different sources, including council tax and government grants.
For a party to run a local authority, it needs to have a majority of councillors on it. Plenty of councils, including 23 councils being contested this time around, are under no overall control.
There are no local elections this year in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.