Rishi Sunak admitted the local elections will be “tough” for the Conservatives as party leaders made their final pitches to voters on the eve of polls opening.
With some analysts predicting the Tories could lose 1,000 seats, the prime minister was managing expectations on the campaign trail in Buckinghamshire.
Asked how badly his party might perform, Mr Sunak said: “We’ve always said these are going to be a tough set of elections for us.”
Politics live: Cost of living dominates as Sunak and Starmer clash on eve of local elections in England
He added: “We are concentrating on delivering on people’s priorities.
“So at a local level, that’s about low council tax where Conservative areas have a council tax that is on average £80 lower than Labor ones; crime is lower and we fill more potholes.
“Nationally, I’m focused on my five priorities – that’s halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting waiting lists and stopping the boats.”
Leaders from the main parties have all been making campaign stops today.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said the country “desperately needs change” and “you can sense that in the air”.
Speaking in the Labor target of Medway, Kent, Sir Keir said: “This is going to be all about the cost of living. It’s absolutely clear the government has nothing to say about that. We’ve got a positive case to tell and we hope that we’ll be able to make some progress tomorrow.”
The election campaign comes against the backdrop of soaring inflation. But as well as the cost of living, crime and the Conservatives’ record on the NHS have been key battlegrounds for opposition parties hoping to make gains.
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats, who are targeting rural and suburban seats held by the Tories, have put plans to tackle water quality at the heart of their messaging.
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said he is going into Thursday’s election feeling “very hopeful” and claimed many Conservative voters would turn to his party.
“They are increasingly fed up with the Conservatives, we are finding life-long Conservatives telling us they will never vote Conservative again,” he said.
Voters in 230 local authorities across England are going to the polls tomorrow and elections are also taking place to choose mayors in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield and Middlesbrough.
It’s the biggest test of public opinion this side of the next general election, and Labour’s chance to prove it’s on course to form the next government, as current national polling suggests.
Local elections: A guide through the night – and the key councils to watch
As Labor eyes gains in the local elections, voters have one pressing issue on their minds
The Conservatives will be hoping to keep losses to a minimum, while Labor and the Lib Dems will be judged on whether their parties are able to make gains at the expense of the Tories.
People are being urged to remember their ID when going to vote – as this is the first election in England where there will be a requirement to show photographic identification before casting their ballot.