Stephen Archer: "What has the Coalition government really done for small business?"

If we focus on UK PLC at a macroeconomic level, the Coalition has done a good job. We have a globally-applauded deficit reduction programme and while this in itself risks dampening economic activity, it has ensured that the credit rating remains unharmed.

Never has there been a better time for the UK to be outside the Eurozone. But the UK's sovereign fiscal independence has in some ways been a squandered opportunity.

Business and in particular small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) constitute the largest employer sector of the UK economy but the government has not made the stimulus of this sector a serious enough priority. Sure, some red tape is being prevented and even removed and there is more tax relief for entrepreneurs but in both cases these measures have lacked ambition.

New enterprise hubs are all well and good but they are not as different as they should be from the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). The removal of the RDAs was a rash political decision revered by the Enterprise Hubs - not very clever.

Mentoring SMEs is a nice idea but there is little sign of this coming through in visible action and though I applaud it, this action is far less important than tax and NI breaks for new employees for start-up businesses. These steps not only help, encourage and stimulate employment but also help our competitiveness.

Manufacturing also deserves special attention that has not materialised at all. The sector was halved under the previous government and its recovery is vital.

Does the UK look like an enterprise culture yet? No. It's better but a long way short. Not only have we lost too many skills to services and state organisations but our business culture has been eroded. We need that and our commercial hunger back for us to really grow and cut the deficit sustainably.

Osborne is too patrician to be the patron of this change and Cable lacks the passion and conviction. Where is grass roots business represented in the cabinet?

Different times needs different focus and skills. The coalition needs to wake up quickly before some of the opposition bench start taking the lead on ideas.

Stephen Archer is director at Spring Partnerships

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