Ed Miliband is expected to pledge more funding to bolster the health service today as he unveils a 10-year plan to rebuild Britain.
There is widespread speculation the Labour leader will use his final conference speech before the general election to signal that money will be redirected to the NHS – and possibly to social care.
But he will stress the party’s commitment to fiscal discipline, insisting a “world class” country can be achieved without “big spending”.
Doubling the number of people buying their first homes to 400,000 each year is among six “goals” being set out by Mr Miliband to help young people. Boosting apprenticeship take-up until it matches the number going to university, halving the number of low-paid workers and creating amillion new “green” technology jobs also form part of what the party is calling a “national mission”.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls signalled a significant tightening of the party’s spending controls yesterday – ruling out higher borrowing if it wins power and warning of more “tough decisions” such as an extension of real terms cuts to child benefit.
Despite leading the opinion polls, the Labour pair continue to trail David Cameron and George Osborne over who is most trusted with the economy.
Mr Miliband is expected to dangle some immediate policy carrots before the electorate – with the NHS tipped to be the focus after Mr Balls told the Manchester gathering the party would do “whatever it takes” to protect it.
A “world class health and care service” is another of Mr Miliband’s six stated 2025 goals – completed by raising the pay of “everyday” workers to ease the cost of living.
There is speculation that more than £1 billion in revenue from an already-promised “mansion tax” on homes worth more than £2 million could be devoted to health and social care. But with less than eight months until the UK chooses a new government, he will appeal to the country to “raise its sights” beyond the years of continued restraint needed to tackle the deficit – which Labour aims to eliminate by 2020.
In a direct riposte to the Government’s much-vaunted “long-term economic plan”, Mr Miliband said he wanted to “restore people’s faith in the future” with his own “plan for Britain’s future”.
“‘Can anyone build a better future for the working people of Britain?’ That is the general election question,” he will tell activists in Manchester.
In a nod to the close vote in the Scottish independence referendum, he will say many Scots wanted independence “because they felt they had nothing left to lose by quitting the UK”.
“Our task is to restore people’s faith in the future. But the way to do it is not to break up our country. It is to break with the old way of doing things, break with the past,” he will say.
“I’m not talking about changing a policy, or simply a different programme. But something that is bigger: transforming the idea, the ethic, of how our country is run.
“Strip away all of the sound and fury and what people across England, Scotland and Wales, across every part of the UK, are saying is this country doesn’t care about me. Politics doesn’t listen. The economy doesn’t work.
“And they are not wrong. They are right. But this Labour Party has a plan to put it right.
“For Labour, this election is about you. You have made the sacrifices, you have taken home lower wages year after year, you have paid higher taxes, you have seen your energy bills rise, you have seen your NHS decline, you know this country doesn’t work for you.
“We can build that better future for you and your family, wherever you live in the United Kingdom, and this speech is about Labour’s plan to do it: Labour’s plan for Britain’s future.”
Setting out the plans to double the numbers getting on the housing ladder – partly through a pledge to be building 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 – he will declare that property ownership is “that most British of dreams” but had “faded” for too many young people priced out of the market.
Aides said it was Labour’s first such stated aspiration to increase ownership.
Mr Miliband will call for “the biggest national effort that we have seen for generations” including a “revolution in apprenticeships” to ensure as many school leavers go into one as now go on to study for a degree. At present four times as many go to university, “leaving both young people and businesses without the skills they need to succeed for the future”, he will add.
Mr Miliband will promise help for “the growing army of our self-employed, five million working people, so often the most entrepreneurial, go-getting people in our country”.
He will add: “They don’t want special treatment. But they do deserve a fair shot: two thirds have no pension, one in five is stopped from getting a mortgage.”It is time to end this modern injustice.
“The next Labour government will ensure the self-employed are not locked out of the benefits that come from going out to work.
“Increasing the number of ‘green’ jobs is the most important thing I can do in politics for the future of my kids and their generation”, he will declare – vowing to catch up with countries such as Germany, Japan, the United States, India and China in the sector.
And he will hail his conference-opening pledge to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020 as the best way of “rewarding the talents of all”.
He will add: “The Tories are the party of wealth and privilege. Labour is once again the party of hard work fairly-paid.”