The UK’s high energy prices are costing contractors billions of pounds and threatening the government’s construction programme, industry bodies warned this week.

They urged the government to act, adding that construction could be heading for another unusually cold winter.

A survey by the Construction Products Association found that the rise in energy prices had added £1.6bn to the cost of products.

Michael Ankers, chief executive of the CPA, said: “Our members will try to absorb the cost but some of it will have to be passed on. The higher prices will take a substantial chunk out of the government’s purse.”

Ankers also warned that a winter as cold as last year’s would lead to another rise in prices.

Ankers’ fears were echoed by Michael Driver, director of the Brick Development Association. Driver said energy price rises had already added 25% to costs.

He claimed that UK construction firms were at a disadvantage to their European rivals because many European energy providers are state-owned, which means prices remain lower.

He called for the government to lobby other European countries to open up their energy providers to competition.