Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday accused New Democracy conservatives of being «arsonists» who destroyed Greece’s public finances, dismissing party leader Antonis Samaras’s recipe for dealing with the economic crisis as nothing more than a «cunning trick.» Speaking to PASOK MPs exactly a month before local elections are due to be held, Papandreou launched a stinging attack on Samaras and ND in what commentators saw as an attempt to rouse his party ahead of the November 7 poll. The premier blamed the previous conservative government for the ballooning deficit and debt that PASOK inherited and dismissed Samaras’s claims that he could reduce the deficit to zero within a year. «If he had this magic solution when he was the culture minister in the previous government, why didn’t he call Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and tell him about it,» said Papandreou. Samaras has raised the political stakes ahead of next month’s poll by making a national issue – the economic situation – the defining matter. ND is staking a great deal on its opposition to the EU-IMF memorandum PASOK signed to prevent Greece from going bankrupt. The conservatives are hoping the November elections will give voters the ideal opportunity to express their opposition to the agreement and the austerity measures that it has brought and that ND will be the party to profit from their unhappiness. Papandreou dismissed ND’s stance as «just a big show.» The prime minister called on all PASOK deputies to support the party’s local government candidates in the first elections to take place since the administration passed reforms that have led to municipal and regional administrative boundaries being redrawn. Papandreou spoke as thousands of civil servants gathered in central Athens to protest plans to overhaul the pay structure in the public sector. Their union, ADEDY, said that three in four civil servants took part in the strike. Papandreou stressed that his government does not plan to adopt anymore austerity measures beyond those that it has already agreed to with the EU and the IMF.