CBI calls for infrastructure projects to boost economy

Cranes and a building The CBI wants big construction projects to top the agenda

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Business lobby group the CBI has urged the government to push ahead with big building projects, saying they are essential for economic recovery.

CBI director general John Cridland said the government's infrastructure policy was "faltering" amid fears that it lacked the "political will" to deliver.

A CBI survey of 526 firms found only 35% backed the government's strategy.

In response, the government said it was "fully focused on delivering the infrastructure the UK needs".

The survey, carried out by the CBI and accountants KPMG, indicated that regional transport links were of particular concern, with 73% of respondents reporting "deterioration" of road networks.

Mr Cridland said that while he believed ministers shared his "enthusiasm for progress", the government had "talked the talk on infrastructure for the last two years with too few signs of action".

He added: "The faltering speed of delivery on infrastructure creates a worrying sense that politicians lack the political will to tackle some of the major issues head-on."

In all, 65% of firms said they believed government policies would have no tangible effect or even make things worse, while 35% said they would make a difference.

Power costs

Energy topped the worries of businesses overall, with 77% of those surveyed saying they were not confident of improvements in energy infrastructure over the next five years.

Pylons at sunrise Energy security topped the list of business concerns

The CBI added that 95% of firms were concerned about the cost of energy and 90% were concerned about security of supply.

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said that the CBI was right to focus on big investment projects.

She said: "Just seven out of 576 projects in the government's infrastructure pipeline have been completed and 80% haven't even started."

A spokesperson for the government said it had set out projects worth £100bn in its spending round and had laid down a clear strategy in the National Infrastructure Plan.

"The government's focus is now on implementing these plans," the spokesperson added.

In response to its findings, the CBI suggests five steps over the next 18 months to boost construction, including a call for an increase in capital allowances for the construction of infrastructure projects.

In August, the CBI said that it still supported plans for the construction of the HS2 high-speed rail project "in principle", but that "it must be demonstrably clear that the benefits outweigh the costs".

In a separate study, the EEF manufacturers' organisation also said the government needed to "secure faster delivery" of its transport infrastructure priorities and "develop a more strategic approach".

The EEF made its call as part of a wider analysis of the government's industrial strategy, in which it urged ministers to make faster progress towards rebalancing the economy and achieving a sustainable recovery.

Confidence

A survey from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found its members were creating jobs for the first time in at least three years.

The FSB said its confidence index rose to 33.5 in the third quarter, twice that recorded in the previous quarter.

Financial and business services and technology firms were among the most confident.

FSB chairman John Allan said: "Optimism, growth and confidence can be used to summarise this quarter's findings. Small firms are clearly helping the economy gain momentum compared to the same point last year."

A spokeswoman from the Treasury said the survey was another sign the economy was recovering.

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