LABOUR would tax the banks and pump the money into Britain’s great towns and cities to create jobs, party leader Ed Miliband has revealed.
In a major interview with the Examiner, he set out his plan to support local businesses and give the construction sector a massive boost, in the run-up to local elections.
And he slammed the Government for failing to tax Britain’s banks and financial services industry, largely based in London, while employers in other parts of the country were struggling.
Local elections this week will be Mr Miliband’s first major test since replacing Gordon Brown as Labour leader last September.
He claimed the poll was about “the fate of the country”, and urged voters to use it as a chance to show their opposition to the policies of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in Westminster.
Mr Miliband also warned that cuts to police budgets had forced chief constables to sack hundreds of their most experienced officers by making them take early retirement – and predicted this would hit public confidence..
In West Yorkshire, Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison has already warned that the force may lose up to 2,000 jobs in the next four years, as they have to make savings of at least £70m.
Speaking to our reporter, Mr Miliband accused the Coalition Government of failing to draw up a strategy to help employers bring jobs and prosperity to the regions.
He said: “Here’s one thing I would do very differently. I would be having a bank bonus tax this year I wouldn’t be cutting taxes for the banks.
“And I would be using that money to put young people back to work, to get the housing sector moving and to give more money to small and medium-sized enterprises to help them grow.
“That’s a big difference. We’d be transferring money from the finance sector, from the banks, to help industry and to help put people back to work.
“That shows the focus we have on jobs and growth, and I’m afraid the focus the Government doesn’t have.”
Massive public sector cuts had cost jobs, he said, as he highlighted recent figures which showed the economy grew by only 0.5 per cent in the first quarter of the year.
“Because of the speed at which they are cutting in the public sector, the private sector is not being able to keep up.
“That’s why you’ve seen the economy flat over the last six months.
“And so, I hope that they’ll listen to what people are saying at these elections and be willing to change elections.
“What I pick up as I go around the country is a sense of fear at what the Government is doing and a sense that actually, they aren’t addressing the real questions that people need addressed.”
The public will see fewer police on the streets because of cuts to the law and order budget, Mr Miliband claimed.
He was speaking after it emerged that more than 2,000 of Britain’s most experienced police officers are to lose their jobs because of budget cuts.
Chief Constables trying to save money have used a little-known regulation known as A19, which allows them to force officers with more than 30 years service to take early retirement.
This is because police officers are officially “servants of the crown” rather than employees, so it is almost impossible to make them redundant before they are eligible for a pension.
The Labour leader admitted he would also have cut police budgets – but by half as much as the Tories and Lib Dems.
“We said we would have cut the police budget by about £1 billion.
“What the Government has said is we are not going to do £1 billion – we are going to do approximately double that.
“That’s why you are seeing front line police officers being forcibly retired around the country.
“Now, I think that’s the wrong decision they have made. And it comes from a strategy on the economy which is cutting too far and too fast, like no other country in the world.”
The result would be a reduction in front-line policing, he said.
“I think it’s very bad, the impact of police cuts, because I really think people value front-line policing for the visibility it provides and for the reassurance it provides.
“Many people will look round say it is the wrong decision to be cutting the number of police, particularly when they are actually making a proposal for additional spending on police commissioners, which is taking further money out of front line policing.
“If people value their local policing, this is a chance to show they care about it by voting Labour at the local elections.”
WHILE many politicians are off on the summer holidays, Ed Miliband will be in hospital having an operation on his nose.
The procedure, at the end of July, is to prevent a condition called sleep apnoea, which can prevent a sufferer from breathing in their sleep.
But some reports have suggested the operation is also to improve the way that he speaks, after it was feared his nasal “bunged up” voice might put off voters.
Mr Miliband insisted this was simply not true. He said: “It is medical.
“I am happy with the way I speak.
“The reason I’m having the operation is because I have a condition known as sleep apnoea, and on medical advice I’m having this operation, which I think a number of people have had.”
Another personal issue which has attracted attention is his decision to marry long-term partner Justine Thornton, after six years as a couple. The pair have two young children.
It followed reports in parts of the media which focused on his unmarried status, following his election as Labour leader last year.
But Mr Miliband said this had nothing to do with his decision to marry.
He said: “No, because, look, if I had done that, I would have got married before I stood for the leadership, or straight afterwards.
“I always said we’d get married in our own time, and this is the right time for us.
“I was always very clear that I didn’t feel a political pressure to get married.
“I’m doing this because that’s what I want to do and that’s the right thing for Justine and myself.”
He said he was “very much” looking forward to the wedding.
“We are in the sort of later stages of planning. It’s all going very smoothly.”
THIS week’s local elections are a chance to send a message to the Coalition Government about the damage they are doing to the country, claimed Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Appealing for voters to back his Labour Party, he urged the public to deliver their verdict on David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
He said: “This is about the fate of the country.
“And it’s an opportunity, these elections, for people to offer a verdict on the direction this government is taking the country.”
The Tories and Lib Dems had introduced a range of controversial policies that weren’t even discussed in last year’s general election, he said. “I believe this a government without a mandate for many of the things they are doing.
“They’ve got no mandate for their NHS changes.
“They’ve got no mandate for the scale of cuts they’re attempting, because it wasn’t in the Liberal Democrat manifesto and nor did the Tories spell it out.
“They don’t have a mandate for what they’ve done on tuition fees.
“And I think, if people believe as I do that they don’t have a mandate, I think they should offer a verdict on that and send a clear message to this Government that they need to change direction - they need to protect the future of our young people, they need to protect people’s living standards that are currently being squeezed and they need to defend our communities on issues like policing”.