AN MP has called a decision to give South Lakeland District Council nearly £500,000 less of coronavirus support cash than neighbouring Barrow 'utter madness'.

Tim Farron has written to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick - urging him to immediately reconsider plans to give the area less in COVID-19 support than the other local authority areas in Cumbria.

Barrow has been given £550,000 - but South Lakeland is only in line to receive £100,000.

In the latest round of COVID-19 grants for local councils, the Government have changed the formula so that areas that had needed more financial support to cope with the effects of the pandemic earlier in the year will get less support now.

Mr Farron said: “It’s utter madness that South Lakeland and Eden should be penalised by the Government for having been two of the worst hit areas by the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s an unbelievably stupid assumption that just because they needed more support back in the Spring and the Summer, they won’t need much going into Winter.

“Just like the school exams fiasco, this appears to be the Government yet again putting their faith in a tinpot algorithm.

“Local businesses are ringing my office every day in desperation, faced with laying off staff or closing their doors for good.

“I’d like to see the brainiacs in Whitehall who came up with this formula tell these people that South Lakeland and Eden will be fine with less support.”

During the peak of the pandemic, South Lakeland and Eden had the highest furlough uptakes rates in the country.

According to the latest statistics from HM Revenue and Customs, South Lakeland still has the joint highest amount of people on furlough at 6,000, alongside Carlisle.

With the district having a population of around 104,000, this means that around 5.77 percent of the population are on furlough.

In addition, South Lakeland has seen a five-fold increase in unemployment since the pandemic began.

Mr Farron has previously championed cross-party attempts to try to extend the furlough scheme and support for businesses impacted by coronavirus through Winter until spring 2021.

Robert Jenrick was contacted for a comment but failed to respond before the Gazette went to press.