A lead Cumbrian business organisation is demanding the Government take action to help the county's employers find staff.

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Government to use the Budget on March 11 to address skills shortages.

The latest Quarterly Recruitment Outlook from British Chambers of Commerce shows more than half of UK firms attempted to recruit in the last quarter of 2019 but almost three quarters struggled to find the right talent.

Chamber chief executive Rob Johnston said: “We know this problem is even more acute in Cumbria. South Lakeland and Eden have the lowest unemployment rates in the UK and our ageing workforce means that the county’s working-age population is shrinking.

"This poses real challenges for employers.

"Time after time we’re hearing ‘We can’t find anyone’ or ‘It took us months to fill this vacancy or that post’.”

He added that as confidence returned following last year's political turmoil, more businesses were likely to look to hire new staff.

"We expect the Cumbrian labour market to tighten further," he said.

"That’s good news for job hunters but a headache for businesses.”

He said he would like to see a commitment in the Budget to long-term funding for vocational education and to fund apprenticeships in small and medium-sized businesses.

The chamber is also calling for a review of the Apprenticeship Levy to give employers greater flexibility to use it for non-apprenticeship training to upskill existing workers.

The news comes after the Government's Migration Advisory Committee was slammed for recommending a wage cap of £25,600 for workers from the European Union working in Britain post-Brexit.

It had previously recommended £30,000.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said the move was "nothing short of an arson attack on the Lake District".

“Speaking to hospitality leaders in the Lakes, they are in absolutely no doubt the Government’s new restrictions will devastate businesses up and down the Lake District," he said.

“There are around 20,000 non-UK staff currently working in the Lake District, but with just yet 279 people registered as unemployed in the National Park there is no clear answer who the Government think will step in to do all these jobs that will be left vacant.

“This is nothing short of an arson attack on Britain’s second biggest visitor destination and these plans must be stopped before this wrecking ball hits Cumbria’s £3 billion tourism economy.”

The BCC survey, conducted in partnership with Totaljobs, identified critical skills shortages in the construction and hospitality sectors, with 79 per cent and 77 per cent of employers respectively struggling to recruit.

Twenty-six per cent of firms say they plan to increase their workforce in the first quarter of 2020.

Around a third of Cumbria’s 65,000-strong tourism workforce is from outside the UK, with the overwhelming majority from Europe.

And the average wage in the sector is £17,000 – £8,500 below the MAG’s revised threshold.