Brown promises pro-business plan


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will try to persuade voters next week he can cut spending without damaging public services as he tries to reduce a record budget deficit and rebuild the economy, ministers said.

With opinion polls pointing to an inconclusive result in an election on May 6th, Mr Brown will tomorrow seek to win support with a promise to protect spending on schools, health and policing.

Labour, which has cut the opposition the Conservative party’s lead from 20 points last year to 7-8 per cent now, will publish its election manifesto on Monday.

After business leaders last week criticised Labour plans to raise by one perc ent the National Insurance levy on employers and employees as amounting to a tax on job creation, Mr Brown will portray his proposals as business-friendly.

"You will be surprised by the pro-business nature of the manifesto, the pro-enterprise nature of the manifesto," he told the Sunday Times. He has already said it would contain a pledge not to raise the basic tax rate.

Energy Minister Ed Miliband, in charge of the document, said it would focus on the economy, social problems and restoring trust in politics after a scandal over lawmakers' expenses.

"Everything will be very tightly costed and there won't be big spending commitments," he told Sky News. "There is less money around. There will have to be reductions, cuts in lower priority programmes."

The campaign, which formally began on Tuesday, is the tightest for nearly 20 years and has been dominated by debate over tax, spending and the economy. The main parties disagree on the depth and timing of the necessary cuts.

Britain is emerging from the worst recession since World War Two and its budget deficit is forecast to exceed 11 per cent of GDP in the 2010/11 fiscal year.

The Tories say Labour's plans will undermine economic growth, raise unemployment and fail to cut waste in the public sector.

"The big story so far has been Labour's jobs tax that will kill the recovery," said Conservative finance spokesman George Osborne. "More and more business leaders and small businesses are backing our plans to cut Labour's waste so that we can save more than 50,000 jobs."

The Conservatives are due to publish their own election manifesto on Tuesday.