AN APPEAL has been launched to see clearer business support packages presented by the government.

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce want to see more flexible support to help companies recover from the impact of Covid-19.

Latest figures revealed by the British Chambers of Commerce show that at least half of all businesses in the North-West region will struggle to run at full capacity until July at the earliest.

Cumbria Chamber has warned the UK Government that unless it responds with significant support and intervention productivity issues could continue to hamper the county in the long term.

They say that the Government needs to act in line with the levelling-up rhetoric in last month’s Queen’s Speech.

Figures in the North West show that only 50 per cent of businesses are currently operating at pre-pandemic levels, compared to 53 per cent nationally, 39 per cent see concerns around a future lockdown being a barrier to restarting their operations.

As much as 21 per cent of businesses will not be able to return to full output levels in 2021.

The data was collected from a survey of more than 1,000 firms, almost all of them were SMEs.

The survey also cites ‘reduced or no customer demand for products or services’ as another reason why 30 per cent of businesses cannot return to pre-pandemic performance levels.

While small business confidence is rising, the high level of caution remaining over any future Covid-related lockdown is a cause for concern.

Suzanne Caldwell, Managing Director of Cumbria Chamber, said: “Significant elements of Cumbria’s economy have been hamstrung since restrictions from the global pandemic were peeled back in May.

“This has largely been due to staff shortages and issues in recruiting across the economic landscape, but especially in hospitality, tourism and manufacturing.

“It’s vital that Government maintains a flexible and targeted approach to supporting businesses and focuses its resources on those sectors where there is the greatest need, while at the same time getting people off furlough and into work where there is the realistic opportunity to do so.”

“There also needs to be a concerted package of measures to enable businesses to recruit more staff – including from overseas.”

Claire Walker, Co-executive Director of the BCC, said: “The ability of businesses to bounce back from the devastation caused by Covid is a huge testament to their resilience.

“Although, the financial support put in place by the government to help many through the last 12 months will have played a crucial role.

“The government must now clarify the future of safety measures, such as social distancing, and set out a clear package of support that would be available should further restrictions be imposed on businesses this year, or in the years to come.”

She said that although there are reasons for optimism as society unlocks, businesses are not out of the woods yet.

“Firms will feel more confident and will be more willing to invest in jobs and in developing their business, if government can give assurances that a safety net of financial support will be provided should there be a need for restrictions which reduce or stop commercial activity in order to protect public health.

“There is cautious optimism growing among firms that as the economy now gradually unlocks, they will be able to push on and return to growth. But the shadow of Covid is very long; many firms still feel uncertain about what the future holds. Having access to finance to help them weather this continuing uncertainty may well prove vital.”

Cumbria Chamber’s toolkit is available online to support businesses through the pandemic, to access the advice visit: