27/05/2012 05:02 BST | Updated 27/05/2012 06:45 BST

Richard Branson Attacks Coalition For Failing To Promote Economic Growth

Billionaire tycoon Richard Branson has criticised the Government for failing to promote economic growth.

The Virgin founder, who backed the Tories in the run-up to the 2010 general election, was one of several senior business figures who told The Observer that the coalition needed a plan to stimulate the economy.

Sir Richard said the Government needed to provide "action to back the rhetoric", boosting support for small and medium-sized businesses and promoting entrepreneurialism to reduce unemployment and boost growth.

He told the Sunday paper: “To get that growth, we need to get behind the small and medium-sized businesses that are the engines of any healthy economy.

“They need investment and finance, and that comes from the big banks. The politicians talk of encouraging lending, we need action to match that rhetoric."

The businessman’s comments follow news that the UK economy shrank by 0.3 per cent in the first three months of the year, slightly more than the figure of 0.2 per cent forecast by the Office for National Statistics.

Branson’s criticisms are likely to be taken extremely seriously by Osborne, who in the run-up to the 2010 general election trumpeted the tycoon’s support for his deficit reduction policies, claiming that the entrepreneur “knows more about creating jobs and building an economic recovery than the entire Labour cabinet put together”.

Advertising executive Martin Sorrell also joined Branson’s call for the Coalition to switch its focus to promoting growth.