Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would be a “human shield” against “slash-and-burn” Tory cuts, as he launched his party’s local election campaign.
The Labour leader said under the Conservatives voters “pay more for less” as council tax bills soar while local services are cut.
And he said privatisation of local services, along with water, energy and the railways, had “failed to deliver”, offering an alternative of “municipal socialism” as the answer.
Speaking in Tory-run Trafford, Greater Manchester, Mr Corbyn said austerity was a “political choice” while the Government had slashed tax on big business and the rich.
He said: “So when your children’s school is losing teachers and sending begging letters to parents, or their youth centre is closed, that’s because the Conservative priority is tax breaks for big business.
“And when your elderly relatives are neglected for lack of social care, that’s because the Conservatives want another tax giveaway for a few people at the top.”
He contrasted Labour councils which pay the “living wage”, citing Islington, Camden and Salford, with Tory ones, such as Wandsworth, Westminster and Trafford, that do not.
Mr Corbyn said the “deepening” housing crisis meant 120,000 children were now living in temporary accommodation with homelessness doubling.
Labour-run councils would build more homes, as Birmingham was doing, he added.
“Too often under the Conservatives, the essential things in life have been left to the market.
“Labour councils are clearing up the Tories’ mess time and time again, and acting as a human shield against damaging Conservative cuts.
“It’s a different story when it comes to Conservative councils.”
He said the Tory-run county council in Northamptonshire had gone bust, after outsourcing services to be run like private enterprises.
But this same “slash-and-burn model” was still being used by Barnet Council, which is also run by the Conservatives.
He added: “Privatisation has failed to deliver on the railways, in the water companies and with energy too; people are paying more for less.
“That’s what you get with the Tories – you pay more for less so that their super-rich backers can take a cut for themselves.
“It’s common sense that natural monopolies like water, energy and rail and public services should be there to serve us all, not the profit margins of a few.
“And again, it is Labour councils, with their spirit of public enterprise and practical municipal socialism, that are finding solutions even in the toughest of times.
“After eight years of Conservative cuts, failed privatisations and falling living standards, it’s time for real change.
“Labour will give dignity and support to those in need, rebuild our communities and transform our country for the many, not the few.”
Elections are taking place in 32 London boroughs and 119 other councils around England on May 3, alongside mayoral ballots in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Watford and the Sheffield City Region.