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Surveys to track the impact of COVID-19 on Cumbrian business underway

Cumbria’s Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group (BERRG) has today released the results from its recent surveys to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses in the county.

The Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group (BERRG), of the Local Resilience Forum, conducted an open survey that closed on 3 May, which resulted in responses from 896 businesses, charities and other organisations operating in Cumbria. The purpose of the survey was to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on Cumbria’s individual businesses and overall economy. 

Private sector businesses provided 82% of replies with the other 18% coming from charitable, voluntary, community, and social enterprises, as well as the public sector.

Responses came from businesses across the county, with the highest levels coming from South Lakeland at 35% and just under a third from Eden at 29%. 

BERRG recognised that responses had been higher from sectors most likely to be closed due to the pandemic, with, for instance, 36.4% coming from the accommodation and food services sector.

It is clear that those responding to the survey had experienced significant impact on their businesses with the visitor economy most seriously affected, given the COVID-19 restrictions placed on the Sector.

Initial comparisons with the Office of National Statistic’s survey suggests that Cumbrian businesses are more likely to have ceased trading or be operating at a lower capacity than businesses nationally.  The impact on the workforce has also been high, with half of the businesses responding by using the Job Retention Scheme to furlough some of their staff.

Jo Lappin, Chair of BERRG, said: “The survey provided a helpful opportunity to assess the impact of COVID-19 on Cumbria’s businesses.  However, it is important to recognise that the sample was self-selecting and as such, we cannot say that the results are relevant for all businesses in Cumbria, but what we can say is they are relevant for all of the businesses that responded.

“The results were unfortunately in line with our expectations given Cumbria’s economic structure, which meant that our economy and businesses were likely to be harder hit.

“The positive news is that most of our businesses were well-informed about the support available to help them during the pandemic, additionally there were excellent examples of businesses adapting quickly to the situation to continue trading.  These changes included introducing home working, greater use of technology, introducing new products or services and selling direct to customers rather than through retailers.

She went on to say: “BERRG also wanted to assess the impact on businesses over time and we therefore invited those businesses responding to the initial survey to volunteer to join a tracker panel to assess the ongoing impact. The first tracker survey has now been completed with 223 businesses responding. This is already showing a slight increase in the level of confidence in our business community.”

“Clearly, COVID-19 had had a significant impact on Cumbria’s economy, as demonstrated by the increase in both unemployment and Universal Credit recipients in the figures released recently. However, I have been really encouraged by the creativity, innovation and resilience of Cumbria’s businesses, which have already turned their attention to thinking about how they can get their businesses through the current very challenging times and making sure that their businesses can successfully trade in line with safety regulations. It is clear that our businesses and Sectors are committed to working together to ‘restart, reboot and rethink’ Cumbria’s economy going forward.”

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