CUMBRIA'S biggest business networking group has slammed the Conservative’s latest plans to cut immigration levels.

James Cleverly, the home secretary, announced on December 4 significant changes to immigration rules that will come into force next Spring.

They were made - amid record levels of immigration to the UK - with the intention of leading to the ‘biggest clampdown on UK migration ever’ and ‘to crackdown on cut-price labour from overseas’, according to the government.

The view is that by making it harder to recruit foreign workers, it will grow the domestic workforce.

The changes will include a minimum salary rise for ‘skilled workers’ from £26,200 to £38,700.

It will also include a review and potential abolition of the graduate visa route, which could see a huge decline in foreign students attending UK universities.

The impact could be huge, with the amount of skilled workers entering the UK having grown massively recently.

A shortage of workers is a problem across G7 countries, including Germany, which recently amended its immigration laws to make it easier for skilled workers to enter.

There will also be a review of the shortage occupation list and a potential scrapping of the 20 per cent salary discount for new entrants.

The UK continued to suffer from employee shortages in many sectors, small and large businesses alike.

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, a peer-to-peer group for Cumbrian businesses, heavily criticised the plans.

Suzanne Caldwell, its managing director, said: “Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is aghast at the immigration plans proposed by the government, with feedback from members demonstrating real concern for the future.

“We’re working closely with the British Chambers of Commerce on this, who are in discussion with the home office, including taking concerns of our members directly to ministers.

“It feels as if the government has taken no account of the challenges faced by many businesses, not least here in Cumbria, and we know from talking with other chambers that this is not only a Cumbrian issue.

“Raising the minimum salary, for example, from £26,200 to £38,700, is just not reasonable, and takes it way beyond average wages.

“This isn’t about exploitative employers bringing in foreign staff, paying them less and keeping British workers out of jobs.

"It’s about good employers, who value their staff, being unable to recruit and retain enough people to deliver the goods, services and growth we need as a county and as a country.

"Equally it’s not all about sectors like hospitality, it hits other sectors too, including manufacturing.

"If somewhere in the UK there’s a secret stash of UK residents looking for work then please would someone pop them in Santa’s sleigh and send them to Cumbria where they’ll get a very warm welcome."