Labour will fight this year’s council elections by warning that there is no alternative to cutting spending, Black Country MP Tom Watson has revealed.

But the high profile MP, who is overseeing Labour’s election campaign, said the party would also insist that it was committed to protecting services as much as possible.

He admitted: "I’m in no doubt that this is going to be a tough message for us to get over".

Mr Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) is Labour’s campaign co-ordinator in his role as the party’s Deputy Chair, a position given to him by party leader Ed Miliband.

He revealed the party’s election strategy in an interview with House Magazine, Parliament’s internal magazine.

The MP said: "There were nearly 9,000 seats up for grabs last year this year there are nearly 2,500.

"The truth is I don’t know how many seats we are going to win. But I think a realistic, stretching challenge will be 350 seat gains."

Labour would stress that it was also committed to cutting back spending in the run-up to the vote on May 3, he said.

"We would have demanded efficiencies from local government as well. If you are seeing a slight hardening up of our message, we know that we have got to convince people we are responsible in tough times.

"We have got to win an argument with people that we can be responsible with their finances while still protecting services."

But Labour had been forced to make cuts in its own staff, which would make campaigning harder, he said.

"We are not a well financed party and we are going to have to rely on the loyalty of our members as ever, probably more than we normally do."

"One thing we are clear about is come the next general election, we are not going to have the number of professional organisers we had in the last election. We are down to our lowest number of professional organisers in my lifetime."