LABOUR and Conservative Party leaders have had their first major spat ahead of forthcoming council elections over a Conservative campaign leaflet.

The leaflet being distributed in the marginal Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council district, depicts a baby in a gated cot above the headline "the next time he's behind bars, it'll be too late".

The literature, designed to promote the national Conservative Party's new policies on dealing with young crime offenders, was branded as "demeaning to local parents", by Labour Redcar council leader David Walsh.

He said: "Obviously, crime has to be tackled - and at an early age.

"But to suggest that every child is a potential criminal is nothing short of telling parents that they are bringing up their children 'inadequately' - another phrase used in the leaflet.

"This is clearly a nonsense, and an offensive nonsense at that.

"I call on the Redcar and Cleveland Conservative group to stop distributing this leaflet locally, in recognition of the offence it may give."

Leader of the Conservative group, Vera Moody, hit back. She said: "I thank Councillor Walsh for bringing this important issue of crime to the forefront of public debate.

"We will continue to highlight Labour's failing policy on crime and it is our intention to continue to deliver a real alternative Conservative policy on crime to the people of Redcar and Cleveland."