A DEVASTATING report has laid bare the impact of the Coronavirus on Cumbria's economy.

The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce has said Eden is likely to be the second most affected area in the whole country.

About 7,989 jobs are likely to go, 34 per cent of the workforce, the majority in tourism.

South Lakeland is also likely to lose 33 per cent of jobs with 17,424 jobs in the firing line.

In response the MP for Penrith and the Border, Dr Neil Hudson, said: "I am acutely aware of the pressures that the Covid-19 pandemic is putting on our local economy and jobs and these figures from the RSA report are extremely concerning. Cumbria is particularly exposed due to its dependence on the tourism and hospitality sectors.

"I am feeding in requests to Government for support for all areas of our economy and community and will continue to do so. Equally, I am feeding in to Government regularly and pushing for more flexibility and breadth in the very welcome support schemes that the Government has introduced during this crisis.

"These unprecedented schemes aim to provide the bridge to get us through this crisis. As an example, Eden District Council has been allocated £27 million in business grants funding and so far almost £17 million has been awarded to businesses in our area.

"I very much acknowledge that some people have not been fully captured in these schemes and I continue to work hard to get more people included.

"I am also conscious that there will not be a sudden return to normality and we need to manage the transition period so that viable businesses can be returned to a sustainable footing.

"I have been heartened that the Government has been adapting and evolving its support schemes which so far have been in the order of over £100 billion, even before accounting for loan guarantees; for instance the new Bounce-back loan schemes introduced by the Chancellor this week will allow businesses to access finance straight away, with no interest payments for 12 months.

"Schemes such as these will help provide the lifeline for businesses in tourism and hospitality to help bridge the gap until business picks up again in the next tourist season. When current restrictions start to ease, we may need to consider further targeted support for sectors such as tourism and hospitality which will not immediately see a return to normal levels of business. I will be championing this."

Jim Walker, Cumbria Tourism chair, said: “The impact of Coronavirus has been truly devastating for Cumbria’s £3bn visitor economy. The crisis has struck at the worst possible time for the industry and the 65,000 jobs it supports.

"The majority of businesses take the bulk of their income in the Easter to Summer period, allowing them to continue to trade and employ staff through the quieter periods.

"Both Eden and South Lakeland include significant areas of the Lake District National Park, and in Eden’s case a large section of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and are heavily reliant on income from the tourism sector.

“If the lockdown continues the estimated cost to the industry Cumbria-wide will be £1.45bn just until the end of May, with businesses seeing additional cancelled cancellations for June, July and August and many struggling to secure compensation from their insurers.

“It is doubtful that there will be an immediate bounce back once lockdown ends, with a phased return to normality likely leaving tourism one of the last industries to be released – further compounding worries.

“Government intervention, particularly the Job Retention Scheme and business support grants, is welcome but it is crucial that this support is sustained long-term to support tourism businesses throughout the entire recovery process, especially if they find themselves only able to open in a reduced capacity to begin with.

"Equally, further flexibility is required to save the many smaller businesses, the heart of our industry, who currently fall through the cracks and through no fault of their own are ineligible for grants and other support.

“Supply chain businesses relying wholly or mainly upon the tourism sector must also be protected not only to safeguard jobs, but also to ensure that the industry is prepared to welcome visitors back to Cumbria once it is safe and legal to do so.”