Lib Dems 'embrace business' says Kirsty Williams

Kirsty Williams will speak at the Liberal Democrat conference later Credit: ITV News

The Welsh Liberal Democrat leader is to pledge to scrap business rates for manufacturing firms who invest in new equipment as she sets out her party's pro-business credentials.

In her speech to the party's conference in Bournemouth, Kirsty Williams is also expected to say that local authorities should be able to keep half of the proceeds of business rates they generate.

She'll say that the current system, where firms pay higher rates if they upgrade plant and machinery, is a 'tax on ambition.'

Her comments are part of an effort to portray the Welsh Lib Dems as the 'party that understands business' but that 'combines fairness, with a pro-enterprise agenda.'

Party leaders believe that despite the severe losses in last May's UK election they have an opportunity in next May's Welsh election to provide an alternative both to the Conservatives and Labour.

But there's an acceptance too that they need to face up to the scale of their problems and the reasons why they are in such difficulty.

Kirsty Williams has previously set out her analysis of what went wrong when she told an audience in Cardiff that it often seemed that the party had 'lost its compass' during its time in government.

In her speech today, she's likely to repeat much of that analysis before the wider party.

The new Lib Dem leader Tim Farron told me yesterday that Kirsty Williams was 'the standout politician in Wales' and he was confident that in May voters would judge her and her party by what they've managed to achieve by using their influence in the Assembly.

Kirsty Williams delivers her speech to the conference in Bournemouth at 3pm.

You can read an extract below: