A Labour Government would freeze business rates immediately after the next General Election, then freeze them again in 2016, party leader Ed Miliband has said today.

He also said plans by the current Government to cut taxes for larger firms “won’t change” under Labour, stating: “Competitive tax rates are an important part of ensuring long-term business success.”

Speaking at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) conference in Manchester today, Miliband promised other assistance for small firms, including the introduction of a British Investment Bank specifically for small businesses and more help with energy costs.

Miliband said rising business rates costs are “pricing small businesses off the high street”.

“That’s why we’ve said the next Labour government would cut business rates immediately after the next election and then freeze them in 2016.

“An average saving of over £400 for 1.5 million business properties right across the country - five times more than will be helped in 2015 by the Government’s proposals.”

Miliband said Labour would introduce a new British Investment Bank, “specifically to support small businesses”. “And that will be supported by a network of regional banks in every part of the country, lending only in their regions.”

He promised to break up the high street and “casino arms” of the big banks if they “can’t demonstrate real culture change by the time of the next election”.

“We will also introduce real competition, with at least two new substantial and competitive banks on the high street. Not just four banks controlling 85% of small business lending because that is too much power concentrated in too few hands.”

Miliband said a regulator would be introduced with a clear remit to protect small businesses over energy. Small firms would have the same protection as households in the energy market, he said.

Responding to the Labour leader’s plans for business rates, Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Any focus on business rates is, of course, welcome. The system is out-of-date and there is now a consensus across business and across the political spectrum that they are in need of fundamental reform.

“Ed Miliband is right to focus on supporting small businesses and high streets and the recognition that the cost of business rates has become unsustainable for retailers. With more than one-in-ten shops currently empty across the country we need a system that encourages investment and works for all business.

“The proposals that we’ve heard from Labour are an interesting starting point. But in order to solve the problem, rather than ameliorate it temporarily, a complete reform of the system is required. We look forward to continuing to work with the Labour Party to develop robust solutions that will support long-term investment by businesses small and large in our high streets and town centres.”