BUSINESSES are calling for greater clarity from the Government as figures show 60 per of Cumbrian firms could go under within six months.

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, which represents the interests of businesses in the county, has been lobbying at the very top of Westminster for greater support for firms of all sizes.

“When it started, everyone you talked to said if you keep the lockdown short that the impact in the medium to long term would be fairly negligible,” explained Cumbria Chamber of Commerce chief executive Rob Johnston.

“It is concerning it is continuing and we are not as yet getting anything from government about what coming out of this will look like.”

Despite saying that the longer the lockdown goes on the larger the impact on the economy will be, Mr Johnston is cautious in his calls for a swift return to normality.

“We are not just pushing to get rid of the lockdown, it’s equally important we do that in a safe way,” he said.

“We don’t want businesses pressured into reopening before they have enough information to do it safely.

“It’s difficult to say where we will be in five or six months. If you are running a business in what shape - or how - do you keep it going and how do you prepare to open it up again?”

The chief executive believes there are huge logistical challenges in getting the economy back up and running again.

“Maintaining social distancing while working closely, how do you make that work? In manufacturing, for example, do you extend the working day, or do you work shifts?

“Based on the advice of the Government, we are concerned if a business does reopen and a staff member becomes ill, what is the responsibility of the business, are they liable?”

Mr Johnston has been involved in various meetings with government ministers and has been pleased with the results.

“We have been very successful in getting government to facilitate a support package which is quite something, it is quite an achievement the money being made available," he said.

“But then the Government needs to do that to have any sort of thought of actually coming out of this. The funding packages are pretty good.

"There are areas where there are gaps.

"Those are the businesses that will be hurt the most.

“The announcement the day before last about the bounce back scheme is particularly important for Cumbria as a significant part of our businesses are small and medium-sized businesses.

“But it is still a loan scheme, so the funds have to be paid back. But what are you borrowing against? It may be six to eight months before they open.”

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce recently published the findings of its coronavirus survey which spoke to more than 500 businesses about the impact of the pandemic.

“Looking at our stats it is pretty scary. The long and short of it is unless the economy opens up they are going to go under.

“What the business support has given them is a lifeline, but that is only a for a given length of time.

“Only 11 per cent believe they will survive for a year if the lockdown restrictions stay as they are. Sixty per cent could go under in six months.

“There is concern is if the furlough scheme stopped that they would turn round and say they will give up because they can’t see themselves recovering and make people redundant.

Any business who needs support or advice is asked to contact or call 0845 226 0040.