Coronavirus pandemic impacting on business confidence, survey finds

Last Updated: 25 May 2021

More than half of business owners in South Lakeland are positive about the future according to the results of a wide-ranging survey.

The survey was carried out by the Economy and Culture team at South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) between October last year and February this year, with business owners invited to give their views to help shape South Lakeland District Council's economic support strategies – of critical importance as the coronavirus pandemic continues, and inform its plans and policies.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents to the South Lakeland Business Premises Survey said they felt confident about the next 12 months, including eight per cent who said they were very confident. This compares to 73 per cent confident in the previous survey.

Thirty-five per cent were not very or not at all confident, compared with 17 per cent in the previous survey undertaken before coronavirus, underlining the wide-ranging and deeply-felt economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic since March last year.

A total of 244 responding businesses (19 per cent of the total) expect their premises/business needs to change over the next three years. Eighty (33 per cent of those anticipating change) would consider expanding their existing site and 20 per cent would look at moving to a larger site, while 12 per cent may acquire additional premises to satisfy their need to change.

The survey is undertaken annually to provide an up-to-date local assessment of business needs over the next 12 months – but takes on even more importance than usual as SLDC aims to support economic recovery while the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, reopen following lockdown and help drive recovery.

Other findings include:

  • the majority of those possibly looking for new premises would do so in Kendal. The most likely types of premises these businesses would be looking for are retail, office and light industrial units, of different sizes.
  • just under half of responding businesses are seeking to address climate change issues by implementing energy efficiency measures, while just under a quarter are utilising green technologies.

The response rate was 30 per cent (1,259 responses), the highest response rate seen so far since the survey began in 2014.

Councillor Robin Ashcroft, Portfolio Holder for Economy, Culture and Leisure, said: “Despite the tremendous economic pressures seen worldwide over the past year, these findings are testament to the amazing resilience, innovation and drive of businesses in South Lakeland. To find more than half are in some way confident for the next 12 months is nothing short of astounding.

"We undertake this survey of the business community annually and the information gathered is vital in giving us a clear picture of what is happening now, as well as an indication of future plans, which means we can offer support and advice where required and also develop our strategies and policies based on first-hand evidence.

"Of course, there is a huge amount of work needed now and in the coming months and years to support businesses in their journeys to recovery. Everything we have been told here and continue to be told by business, partners and stakeholders will inform everything South Lakeland District Council is doing at the moment to aid business recovery and stimulate the right conditions for our local economy to flourish again. The breadth of work we are involved in to help drive economic recovery is wide. It is only right that we do that, and it is testament to SLDC's long history of sound financial management and professional excellence that we have the resources to see that through."

Cllr Ashcroft, who chairs an Economic Renewal Strategy Group for South Lakeland which has representation from MPs, major employers and partners from around the district, added: "In the meantime, SLDC ensures business support and advice is available to firms in the district. I would urge anybody who feels in need to take up that offer."

SLDC funding supports Cumbria Chamber of Commerce's Growth Hub and Business Start-up Support (BSUS) in providing advice and support to new and existing South Lakeland firms.

Businesses can contact the Growth Hub by emailing info@cumbriagrowthhub.co.uk or visit the website at https://cumbriagrowthhub.co.uk

FOCUS

Supporting businesses fighting to survive through the global coronavirus pandemic is one of South Lakeland District Council's key priorities.

SLDC has a clear plan of activity for the district which will help with recovery, build confidence, attract investment and ultimately make South Lakeland a better place to live, work and explore.

Short-term actions already in place to address immediate short-term pressures brought about by coronavirus include:

  • administering more than £133 million in business grants since the start of the pandemic. The most recent scheme is the one-off Restart Grants for non-essential retail businesses; and hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym or sport business premises, of which more than £17 million has been paid out so far to around 2,100 businesses since applications opened on April 23;
  • making a significant financial contribution to delivering free support to start-ups and existing businesses, in partnership with Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and others;
  • providing vital financial support to our Strategic Cultural Partners;
  • partnering with Cumbria Action for Sustainability to fund initiatives and support which enable businesses to make the most of opportunities presented by the green economy, including grants to SMEs towards improving their environmental credentials, increasing their profitability and reducing their carbon footprint in the process.

Medium/long-term strategic projects aimed at delivering a significant long-term economic benefit include:

  • Councillors approved £531,294 of core support over the next three years to Kendal Futures Community Interest Company (CIC) to deliver activities identified in the Kendal Vision and Kendal Town Centre Strategy;
  • moving to phase one of the multi-million pound project to repair and refurbish the Grange Lido site, as well as plans to repair and rejuvenate the promenade;
  • commissioning a masterplan to guide future development of the GSK site in Ulverston after the company’s decision to reduce its operations on the site;
  • transforming part of South Lakeland House in Kendal into Mintworks 2 – a modern, flexible space for use by start-ups and SMEs which will provide additional space for business start-ups and growth;
  • a masterplan has been commissioned to look at commercial opportunities to improve the offer on the Glebe tourist hotspot in Bowness.

Long-term projects include continued working with Barrow Borough Council and Lancaster City Council through the Lancaster and South Cumbria Joint Committee on promoting the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the areas, and working with partners Highways England, Cumbria County Council, Cumbria LEP and Homes England to develop a new roundabout at the A590 Cross-a-Moor junction which will address a significant highway capacity constraint and unlock the development of 1,062 new homes at Swarthmoor and Croftlands, as well as:

  • a redeveloped leisure and community facility in Ulverston;
  • building on the success of the Great Place Lakes and Dales ‘Live More Do More’ Scheme, which aims to attract, inspire and empower young people in our area;
  • the next South Lakeland Local Plan will look ahead to 2040 with a long-term view of the development of the area.