The head of the CBI has slammed the lack of affordable housing in the South-east, saying the economy will suffer if the government does not step in to solve the problem.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference in Blackpool, Digby Jones, director general of the CBI, said wealth creation was being put at risk by the lack of homes. He called for a more efficient and transparent planning system to tackle the situation.

Jones said: “There are people sorting the mail at Mount Pleasant in London who are living north of Rugby and driving into London for a 5am start because they can’t afford to buy in the South-east. This is not the way the fourth biggest economy on earth should be conducting itself. I want somebody to tell me, if we’re not going to build the 200,000 houses that the CBI believes should be built, what are we to do?”

Jones warned that overseas companies could be dissuaded from investing in the UK if there was not enough housing provision, as the shortage could mean they would struggle to attract labour. He said: “We’ve always been the location of choice in Europe for the boardrooms of Detroit, Tokyo, Johannesburg and Frankfurt to create wealth and pay the tax that builds schools and hospitals. I want that to continue. But if they can’t get the labour because there’s nowhere to live, they won’t come.”