One of Britain's leading captains of industry yesterday warned that David Cameron has still not come up with a credible growth plan and risks being "blown off course" by news events.
Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP – the world's biggest advertising group – said: "We don't seem to have a plan in place as yet. Oddly, I find myself in agreement with [Lib-Dem] Vince Cable."
Sir Martin said the Prime Minister needed to offer a clearer agenda on issues from technology, education, immigration and taxation to infrastructure.
The WPP boss repeated his view that cutting the top rate of income tax from 50 per cent to 45 per cent was a mistake and said the Government was being "swamped by events" – a reference to the Budget, the Leveson Inquiry and other woes. "With all these events going on, there's a tendency to focus on the tactical and forget about the strategy."
Sir Martin's comments will alarm the Government because he has backed its policies so far. However, he once again stressed that he remains supportive of the plan to cut the deficit.
He played down Britain's 0.2 per cent slump in economic growth in the first quarter, saying the slip back into a double-dip recession was "very marginal".
"In the UK, from our point of view, we're not seeing a double dip," he said, referring to WPP's 2.5 per cent rise in like-for-like revenues in Britain in the first quarter. Group revenues at WPP, the home of agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather and JWT, rose by 4 per cent on a like-for-like basis.
PR stakes: Bell battle
WPP’s chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell has increased the pressure on Chime Communications to stop its chairman Lord Bell buying out its public relations firm, Bell Pottinger. Lord Bell launched his bid in January after a wave of bad publicity, including an exposé by The Independent which revealed the PR firm’s secret lobbying in Whitehall. “If you have a problem in a service business, you change the management, you don’t sell the company,” said Sir Martin has raised WPP’s stake in Chime to 20 per cent. Lord Bell said: “He should wait until he has accurate information before he makes a judgement on behalf of WPP’s shareholders.”