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Materials boss fears economic recovery will 'evaporate'

Materials boss calls for more infrastructure cash but warns industry must pull together.

Britain’s shaky financial recovery will “evaporate” unless the government fast-forwards infrastructure funding, a key construction boss said last week.

Construction Products Association (CPA) chief executive Michael Ankers also said politicians must reduce uncertainty on planning policy as this had undermined efforts to push projects forward.

Anaemic recovery

He said the economic recovery so far had been “pretty anaemic”, and that the scale of public spending cuts was a “major concern”.

Ankers’ was speaking at the ICE-organised fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

“We can’t sit back and watch our pretty anaemic economic recovery evaporate”

CPA chief executive Michael Ankers

Criticising the planning system, Ankers said the construction industry was tired of “the constant chopping and changing” to planning policy over the past 20 years.

Navel gazing

“We can’t afford to go through another period of navel gazing, which has frustrated projects so much in the past,” he said.

“As a group we [the CPA] support what the government is doing to reduce fiscal debt. But we can’t sit back and watch our pretty anaemic economic recovery evaporate,” he said.

“We’d like to see the government bring forward projects to provide a short-term fiscal boost.”

Joined up message

But he also criticised the construction industry’s “uncoordinated and fragmented” dealings with the government, and said that presenting “a joined-up message” should be a key focus for the sector.

The BBC reported last month that cabinet ministers believe Chancellor George Osborne is likely to inject an extra £5bn of capital spending into infrastructure. But at the same time, Treasury figures show that capital spending over the next five years is set to halve.

At the conference Osborne confirmed a £150M investment in rural broadband projects but failed mention cash boosts for other major infrastructure. Ankers strongly welcomed the coalition’s Green Investment Bank (GIB) proposal and its National Infrastructure Plan, but said that the benefits of both “need to be delivered sooner.”

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