SOUTH Lakeland's pub industry contributes £50m to the district's economy, according to research by Oxford academics.

The area has nine breweries and 133 pubs providing direct employment to 1,747 people, the study reveals.

The industry, which is worth around £48.6m to the South Lakeland economy, also supports a further 310 indirect jobs, say researchers from Oxford Economics.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said the study was evidence of the critical role pubs play in the local economy and he called on the Government and Cumbria County Council 'to do more' to help the trade.

He says the council should back pubs by providing grants and asking them to support community services like shops, post offices and other community facilities.

Mr Farron pointed out that Essex County Council offered grants to pubs of 50 per cent of any capital investment, up to £5,000.

"It is important that we work hard to save our local pubs," said Mr Farron, who is a longstanding member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). 

"I think that there are a few simple steps we can take to really help these community assets. We need to freeze the beer tax, support our brewers and give small grants to pubs to house community facilities. By giving community pubs a small grant, we can help rural pubs diversify and bring back vital community services.

"I want to see the county council back this scheme and commit to supporting rural areas."

A recent study by CAMRA showed that two pubs in the United Kingdom were closing every day.