Most of all, the county's growing traffic congestion is driving them crazy.

Nineteen executives, whose companies employ 65,000 people, or 10% of Surrey's workforce, backed SEP's strategy during a meeting at Loseley Park House, Guildford.

They said the five steps identified by SEP tackled the issues threatening to make local business less competitive — especially traffic, affordable housing and the skills shortage.

During the meeting, commercial property adviser Vail Williams and Allied Irish Bank, the business leaders, raised fears that Surrey was punching below its weight on economic matters at government level.

SEP director Nigel Horton-Baker said: "Business finds it hard to cut through the array of local, regional and national bodies to reach the decision-makers. They see us as helping them bypass the problem."

SEP is asking them to draft a response to the South-East England Development Agency's Regional Economic Strategy, published earlier this year, and the Regional Transport Strategy.

The business leaders urged:

1) Lobby for improved east-west rail connections.

2) Help improve commuting and business journeys.

3) Promote practical ways of tackling congestion, including programmes for more school buses and the use of broadband internet connections.

4) Encourage more businesses to become involved in schools' 14-19 curriculum, giving students real-life work experiences.

5) Lobby for affordable housing. Push for a more flexible and responsive land use planning system to meet business needs. Recreate communities where people can live and work.

Information was also passed on topics central to SEP's economic strategy, and opportunities from new information and communications technologies.

Pictured centre is Nigel Horton-Baker, winning support from top business leaders for Surrey Economic Partnership's five-step strategy.