By Jonathan Davies

Labour will not raise VAT, if it wins the general election, Ed Balls has said.

The shadow chancellor said Labour's manifesto will contain a "clear pledge" not to raise the tax, which it says "hits pensioners and the poorest hardest".

Labour has repeatedly claimed that the Conservatives will raise VAT to help pay for £30bn worth of spending cuts. The Chancellor George Osborne raised the tax from 17.5% to 20% in his first Budget in 2010.

In a speech in Birmingham, Mr Balls will sayt: "The next Labour government will not raise VAT.

"We will not put up VAT. And we will not extend it to food, children's clothes, books, newspapers and public transport fares.

"We will not raise VAT because it's the tax that hits everyone. It's the tax that hits you every day. And it hits pensioners and the poorest hardest."

In response, the Tories said that Labour will instead raise income taxes or national insurance.

A Conservative spokesperson said: "Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have repeatedly said they will raise taxes.

"It is time that they came clean with the British public about which taxes they will raise - income tax or national insurance."