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Project funding and planning delays threaten economic recovery, says industry chief

The UK’s shaky financial recovery will “evaporate” if the government does not speed up infrastructure funding and reduce the “navel-gazing” that has slowed down planning processes in the past, an industry chief said last night.

Construction Products Association (CPA) chief executive Michael Ankers said progress so far on balancing the UK’s books had been “pretty anaemic”, and that the slashing of the capital spend by ministers was of “major concern”. He was speaking at the ICE’s Conservative party conference fringe event in Manchester.

Ankers was also critical of the UK planning system, and said the industry was tired of “the constant chopping and changing” of government rulebooks over the past 20 years. “We can’t afford to go through another period of navel gazing, which has frustrated projects so much in the past.”

But he also said the construction industry is “uncoordinated and fragmented” in its dealings with the government, and said that presenting “a joined-up message” should be a key focus for the industry. “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 recovery evaporate.”

Cash boost rumours

Ankers said last night that he would “like to see the government bring forward projects to provide a short-term fiscal boost”.

The BBC reported last month that cabinet ministers believed chancellor George Osborne was likely to inject an extra £5bn of capital spending into infrastructure.

However, at the conference yesterday, Osborne confirmed a £150M investment in rural broadband but did not mention cash boosts into any other major infrastructure. At the same time, Treasury figures show capital spending over the next five years is set to halve.

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