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Miliband pledge for small firms
Ed Miliband is set to offer an £800 million tax break to smaller companies as he declares his determination to make Labour "the party of small business".
The first act of a Labour government, if it wins the next general election, will be to reverse a hike in small business rates due in April 2015 and to freeze the levy the following year, the Labour leader will say.
The move - which Labour calculates will be worth an average £450 over two years to 1.5 million businesses, including shops, pubs and hi-tech start-ups, and up to £2,000 for some firms - will be paid for by scrapping the coalition Government's planned 2015 cut in corporation tax from 21% to 20%.
In his keynote speech to Labour's annual conference in Brighton, Mr Miliband will say he wants growth in the UK economy to benefit "hard-working families", including small business owners, and not just the "privileged few".
Borrowing a slogan from Ronald Reagan's successful 1980 bid for the US presidency, Mr Miliband will say that in 2015 voters should ask themselves: "Am I better off now than I was five years ago?"
He will also risk a backlash from countryside campaigners by launching a "road map" for the construction of a new generation of new towns in England in a bid to solve the housing crisis. Aides declined to identify areas which might come under consideration for new towns, but said Mr Miliband wants to ensure that families are given better access to new homes, and communities which want to grow are helped to do so.
While Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne have been "boasting" of fixing the economy, Mr Miliband will say that the proceeds from growth have gone to a minority, as life for ordinary families has been getting harder, thanks to a "cost of living crisis" caused by soaring bills and wages which fail to keep pace with inflation.
"Too many of the jobs we're creating in this country are just too low-paid, too many of the gains in our economy are just scooped up by a privileged few, including those with big bonuses," he will say. "And too often you are left being charged over the odds. They used to say 'a rising tide lifts all boats'. Now the rising tide just seems to lift the yachts."
Mr Cameron has often said that his economic policies are designed to help the UK compete in a "global race" for prosperity. But Mr Miliband will accuse the Conservatives of pursuing a "race to the bottom", in which prosperity for a few is bought at the cost of worsening wages, conditions and workplace rights for the majority of workers. Labour would instead offer "a race to the top", with support for small firms to become the wealth and job creators of the future.
"At the general election in 2015 you should ask yourself, 'Am I better off now than I was five years ago?'," the Labour leader will say. "You've made the sacrifices. But you've not got the rewards. You were the first one into the recession, but you are the last one out. Will the pain be worth it for the gain under this Government? No... David Cameron talks about Britain being in a 'global race'. But what he doesn't tell you is that he thinks the only way Britain can win is for you to lose. For the lowest wages, the worst terms and conditions and the fewest rights at work - a race to the bottom. The only way we can win is a race to the top."