Economic renewal group formed

7 May 2020

A new group has been formed to plan for South Lakeland’s economic recovery and renewal following the Coronavirus outbreak.

Key business leaders, business representatives, politicians and council officers met this week to begin discussions about how they can work together to both support and develop the district’s economic future.

The virtual meeting was called by Councillor Robin Ashcroft, South Lakeland District Council’s portfolio holder for Economy, Culture and Leisure, who said: “We know that South Lakeland is likely to be one of the areas in Cumbria most economically vulnerable areas to the impacts of the pandemic.

“It is an area where much of our economy is linked to tourism, which has been severely hit, and we are also a hub of entrepreneurship, with high numbers of small and medium-sized businesses which may find it more difficult to weather the storm.

“Key to the work of this group is to not only look at recovery but to also look beyond the immediate crisis, to the opportunities that will emerge and what do we need to do to ensure that we can benefit from new ways of working.

“It’s vital, therefore, that we work together with and support our business community to plan a recovery and renewal strategy that considers the whole district and all types of business.’’

Representatives from retail, manufacturing, hospitality, creative, legal and farming sectors attended the meeting, along with the Chamber of Commerce and politicians from all parties, including Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron and a representative from Barrow and Furness MP Simon Fell’s office.

The meeting agreed to form three sub-groups to look at the short, medium and long-term actions needed to support the recovery, renewal and sustainability of key parts of the local economy, with the sub-groups identified to examine the ‘Visitor Economy’, ‘Town Centres’ and ‘The Role of Communities in Unlocking Development’.

Other actions included an agreement to lobby central government to investigate extending the furlough scheme and to ensure businesses can safely prepare for the re-opening of the economy in line with social distancing once lockdown measures are eased.

Councillor Ashcroft continued: “There was a real spirit of collaboration and a focus on what we will need to do together to ensure our economy can bounce back from this huge challenge.

“No-one is underestimating the task ahead, but working through the sub-groups we hope to deliver the best and most effective support that we can.’’

The group will continue to meet regularly and will develop an action plan over the coming weeks.