CBI calls for 'industrial Olympics'

The head of the UK's biggest business group has urged the Government to launch an "industrial Olympics" to speed the economy away from recession.

John Cridland, director general of the CBI, said building and other "shovel ready" schemes should be driven forward to help create jobs and boost investment.

The CBI, which holds its annual conference in London next Monday, is calling on the coalition to agree a package of measures worth £1.5 billion, with ongoing annual costs of £600 million.

Mr Cridland told the Press Association that the Government underspent by £7.8 billion last year, and was set for windfall gains next year through the 4G communications licence.

He urged the coalition to stick to Plan A on the economy, including cutting back on public spending, but said a number of measures should be taken to help encourage economic growth.

The Chancellor will unveil his Autumn Statement on December 5, and Mr Cridland said he hopes George Osborne will continue to deliver austerity measures "painful as it is", while unveiling plans for growth.

"We need an industrial Olympics, with big schemes which can make a real difference," said Mr Cridland, pressing the case for rail and road improvements to be made, including hundreds of millions of pounds on repair and maintenance programmes which would create construction jobs and improve traffic flow.

The CBI leader also called for a cap on business rates, particularly to help retailers as they struggled with the effects of the economic downturn.

Mr Cridland said there was "no alternative" to public sector spending cuts and voiced optimism that firms would continue to create new jobs next year.

He praised measures taken by the Government to help industry, and "restoring" signals that Britain was open for business, although firms were facing the "chill wind" of the eurozone crisis.