A major Cumbrian group of companies has revealed it has had to make around 15 people redundant as the UK slumps into a recession.

The UK entered a recession yesterday - defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction - as the economy shrank 20.4 per cent compared with the first three months of the year.

Richard Rankin, chief executive of the H&H Group of companies, which is headquartered in Carlisle, said it had to make around 15 people redundant across its estate agency division and printing and graphic design business H&H Reeds.

The company also operates auction sites across the north, including at Carlisle’s Borderway auction mart, as well as operating an insurance division.

“At the Reeds printing business and graphic design, people are just spending less money,” said Richard.

“The print arm of Reeds is very, very quiet. It has picked up from where it was two or three months ago, but it's lower than where it would normally be. People aren’t spending money on future marketing. We had to make some redundancies across the estate agency and across Reeds, there is no escaping it.”

He said businesses of all types would have to get lean and prepare for the future.

“We have to really look hard internally and get our house in order,” he said.

Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said he believed there was the potential for a “significant recovery” in quarter three of the year.

He said Cumbria’s tourism sector and some of its retailers were doing better than initially hoped.

However, the big concerns were what would happen when the furlough scheme came to an end in October and the potential resurgence of coronavirus cases in the autumn.

“The sooner we get to some level of normality and, crucially, the sooner we get the track and trace system up and running reliably and people are confident about getting into spaces again in large volumes, businesses can get some confidence as a result - that’s the biggest single impact on what will happen,” he said.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said: “The important thing is now the recovery.

“Places like Cumbria and Carlisle are not immune to the downturn but I believe Carlisle is a resilient city which has quite a few strengths. One is the infrastructure and in the local economy we have substantial food manufacturers who are big employers which have continued to function during the downturn.”

He said developments such as the city’s potential investment from the Government’s Towns and Future High Streets funds, as well as big infrastructure projects like the Southern Link Road were also causes for optimism.

“There are tough times ahead, but there are reasons to be optimistic and the most important thing is to ensure we are confident about our future,” he said.

David Herington, chief executive of Etail systems - based in Barrow - which provides online shopping software and solutions, said the company had been very busy during lockdown as internet trading boomed.

However, the “high peak” of this activity was beginning to drop off and some clients had gone bust while others had mothballed operations due to the virus.

“We as a business are being cautious with our cost control and we will certainly be downsizing our office and potentially not having an office,” he said.

“The recession will have a long-term effect, we are talking about three to five years, and there is a risk you can go into a downward spiral.

“For my business we are optimistic because we are growing, but it’s certainly a cause for worry.”

Barry Leahey MBE, managing director of playground equipment maker Playdale Playgrounds, in Haverthwaite, said businesses needed to prepare themselves to make a recovery.

"We knew it was coming and things may only get worse from here," he said.

"Let's create a culture and ambition to trade out of the recession.

"If you roll into a ball you will come out of it in 18 months to realise that the world has moved on.

"If you are going into a competition you have got to make sure you have cut your cloth to fit and you can begin training.

"Businesses are only going to get fitter by training the staff and innovating and maybe experiencing a little bit of failure so they can learn what success feels like.

"The only way we're going to get out of this is to trade out of it.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said: “With hundreds of local people having lost their jobs, and families suffering, it is of course no surprise that the UK has now formally entered recession.

“Our area is so heavily dependent on hospitality and tourism, which is why the recession has hit the South Lakes harder than anywhere.

"Having lost the first half of their season, tourism businesses have little chance of making up those losses no matter how busy the Lakes currently are.

“The industry normally draws in £3bn a year, but Cumbria Tourism say they have already lost £1.6bn.

"If we are to protect jobs and save businesses from collapse the Government must agree to the proposal made by myself and Cumbria Tourism to provide a financial package to keep our South Lakes economy going through to the beginning of the next season in Spring 2021.”