Three leading Cumbrian trade bodies representing thousands of local businesses are calling on the Government to rethink its immigration policy.

Cumbria Tourism, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) believe the proposed changes would exacerbate the county’s current 'workforce crisis'.

The organisations described how they have been inundated with concerns from businesses who fear the plans will make current labour shortages in hospitality, manufacturing and other key sectors even worse.

Managing director of Cumbria Tourism Gill Haigh said: “Across Cumbria’s tourism and hospitality sector alone, 12% of roles are vacant and 79% of businesses are struggling with recruitment.

"Businesses are already unable to fill jobs with local people and are now facing the terrifying prospect of having to further cut back their operations – or even close their doors – because they can’t turn to overseas workers to help them operate on a day-to-day basis."

Among the proposals put forward by the Government is a plan to raise the minimum annual salary needed to get a skilled worker visa from £26,200 to £38,700, significantly above the average salary both in Cumbria and nationally.

A letter penned by the three organisations to the Home Secretary cites Cumbria’s super-aging population and a high demand for workers as reasons for the county being affected so much.

These issues are said to be resulting in localised recruitment challenges which the Government has failed to recognise.

“It is doubly frustrating as our calls for new, creative measures to help recruit and retain staff continue to fall on deaf ears," Ms Haigh added.

Managing Director of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce Suzanne Caldwell explained that the trade bodies could not see any justification for the changes.

She said: "The employers we are working with are not exploitative employers bringing in foreign staff, paying them less and keeping British workers out of jobs.

"What we are talking about here is about good employers being unable to recruit enough people to deliver the goods, services and growth we need as a county and as a country."

Gary Lovatt, area lead for Cumbria Federation of Small Businesses, said: “In October the claimant rate was 2.2% and just 1.3% in South Lakeland and 1.3% in the Lake District National Park. Across Cumbria’s hospitality sector alone, 12% of roles are vacant and 79% are struggling with recruitment. This is despite significant work undertaken, with more in the pipeline, to attract more local people into work within the county, to engage and support disadvantaged groups and to attract more UK workers here.

“As trade bodies we call upon the Government to urgently withdraw this proposal and we invite the Minister to visit Cumbria to meet with businesses to understand the consequences for business and the economy were these proposals to be actioned.”