· 2 min read · Features

There was little in the spending review to show where growth is to come

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There's an irony in the fact the abbreviation for the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) is the same as the accepted shorthand for Corporate Social Responsibility.

The latter is how business takes into account its economic, social and environmental impacts in the way it operates - maximising the benefits and minimising the downsides. While few would disagree that drastic measures are needed to tackle the country's deficit, chancellor George Osborne's CSR focuses more on the economic impact of the way the public sector operates and less so on the social and environmental impacts.

Of course, producing £81 billion of "tough but fair" spending cuts over the next four years would not be easy even for the biggest brains in world economics - the amount equates to the value of BP or staging eight Olympic Games. And I am sure we can all point to examples of public-sector inefficiency. Yes, there is no doubt cuts had to come and, if it goes to plan, the prize will be a more productive, less wasteful public sector fit for purpose for the 21st century.

But what worries me is the coalition's belief that the private sector is going to jump in and rescue the 490,000 public-sector employees losing their job. After all, it hasn't managed to do that with the 2.5 million already unemployed.

And there was little in the CSR to show from where this growth is to come.

A slimmed green investment bank, some transport infrastructure projects, a wind farm and the recognition that science is the future were not enough to convince the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) that the planks are in place to encourage small business, the backbone of the UK, to invest in job creation. Indeed, the FSB's latest survey of members finds one in 10 expecting to decrease employment over the next three months while business confidence is declining.

With growth the missing link in Osborne's plan, the Government's wish to see our economy rebalanced looks increasingly fanciful. So, in this issue we focus on one of the sectors that is most talked-up when it comes to this rebalancing: manufacturing.

Many people instinctively feel that the UK needs to make things again. In our cover story, we ask whether manufacturers can rise to the challenge or whether it is no longer economically viable to 'make things' here (p24). We talk to those who are leading the way and ask what skills are needed to help these manufacturers grow.

There are some great success stories in manufacturing. But what is needed now is not just a private sector that can absorb those about to lose their jobs. We need a private sector that can grow above that and create a sustainable base for the UK economy. And that will require a clear, simple strategy; a focus on the real needs of SMEs; further reform of business taxes and employment law; and the right investment in skills.