THE number of people having to claim Universal Credit in Westmorland and Lonsdale has risen dramatically.

According to new figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, the increase is 312 per cent year-on-year.

In numbers, this is a jump from 410 claimants in April 2019 to 1,690 this April.

The number of people seeking work in Cumbria overall has jumped by 81 per cent in a month – the highest increase since the county’s records began in 1986.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, said the figures indicate the need for more long-term support for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In Cumbria, the tourist hotspots of Windermere and Keswick have seen the two biggest ward-level increases. Meanwhile the claimant count rose by 645 in the Lake District National Park Area, an increase of 297 per cent.

“If there was evidence needed on the toll this pandemic would take on Cumbria’s hospitality and tourism sector then this it," said Mr Farron.

“The sad reality is this increase is only set to get bigger when the furlough scheme eventually draws to a close and many workers are made redundant because the business they work for has been unable to survive. We desperately need that long-term financial support from the Government to take this crucial industry into next spring so we can help businesses get back on their feet and get people back into work.”

South Lakeland was the district with the biggest rise. It saw a 201.2 per cent leap in people claiming the benefits, with numbers up by 1,335.

The first figures released to reflect the impact of the initial coronavirus lockdown reported the number of people on Universal Credit actively looking for a job and those on Jobseeker’s Allowance was 12,530, an increase of 5,595 from March. The claimant rate in Cumbria has risen from 2.3 per cent to 4.2 per cent and all areas in Cumbria are below the new national rate of 5.1 per cent.

Simon Fell, Conservative MP for Barrow, said that the latest unemployment figures indicate the challenge the county and the entire UK faces to rebuild the economy after coronavirus. Barrow had 660 more people claiming, a rise of 53.3 per cent and Copeland registered a 47.8 per cent rise with an extra 1,330 claims.

Mr Fell said: “These figures show the scale of the challenge we have as we start to come out of coronavirus.

"As the chancellor has said, this isn’t unexpected, but it also shows why it is crucial that we start to get our economy going again so that businesses start trading and growing once more."