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Party leaders to join pre-election business summit

CONFERENCE: (From left) Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg and head of the Labour party Ed Miliband

POLITICAL LEADERS will step up their pitch for business votes by addressing a major conference less than eight weeks before the country's general election.

Days after delivering his pre-election Budget, Chancellor George Osborne will hail measures such as a review of business rates in a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) conference.

BUSINESS: Chancellor George Osborne will join Miliband and Clegg at the Federation of Small Businesses conference

But his credentials will be questioned at the Birmingham gathering in rival addresses by both Labour leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the head of the Liberal Democrats.

FSB national chairman John Allan said: "Small businesses really are the backbone of the UK economy, employing 60 per cent of the UK's working population.

"We hope the Chancellor, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition lay out what they would do for this community if returned to government in May."

Allan added: "Ahead of the election we have produced a business manifesto based on feedback from small businesses across the UK.

"It sets out what the next Government must do to support small businesses from when they are just starting out, to when they are looking to expand and hire even more staff. We hope to see much of its content included in the manifestos of parties seeking to form the next Government."

Osborne said: "Our long term economic plan has the needs of small business at its heart - from getting public finances under control to reforming employment tribunals."

The politician, who delivered his final Budget before May's general election on Wednesday (Mar 18), announced tax cuts for first-time buyers, workers and savers.

The chancellor claimed Britain was "walking tall again" after five years of austerity. He said: "The Budget builds on our record. We have announced a review of business rates, will abolish the annual tax return, and frozen fuel duty. Measures across the country will boost broadband, support apprenticeships, strengthen exports and increase access to finance."

He also cut 1p from beer duty, 2 per cent from cider and whisky and froze fuel and wine duty. Cigarettes will go up by 16p a pack as earlier planned.

Labour leader Miliband said Osborne had "failed working families".

"This a Budget that people won't believe from a government that is not on their side," Miliband told MPs.

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