A survey to assess the impact of Covid-19 on Cumbria's economy has revealed businesses have seen their turnover halved during lockdown, but there was a cautious optimism about the future.

Cumbria’s Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group released its findings from its two recent surveys to assess how coronavirus was affecting the economy.

The first survey, launched in April, saw 896 businesses respond from across the county, with the highest levels coming from South Lakeland at 35 per cent and Eden at 29 per cent.

The group said 36.4 per cent of responses came from the accommodation and food services sectors.

The second survey, which was carried out between May 18 and 22, saw 223 responses.

The group said that because businesses chose to take part in the survey, it was not representative of the county as a whole, but added: "Initial comparisons with the Office of National Statistics' 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."

In the second survey, 83 per cent of respondents that were currently trading in some capacity said their turnover in the past two weeks was outside the range they would have expected at this time of year.

Of those, 62 per cent said it was 50 per cent lower than they would expect and 23 per cent said it was between 20 per cent and 50 per cent lower. Five per cent had seen increases in turnover.

Forty-seven per cent of respondents indicated they had cash reserves that would last more than four months, 30 per cent had reserves for one to three months, seven per cent for less than a month and 15 per cent said they had no cash reserves at all.

The survey said: "However, it appears that the degree of confidence about the future, while increasing compared to two weeks ago for those confident of survival, had fallen among those who fear for the future.

"Among those confident about survival, only nine per cent were less confident about this than they were two weeks ago while 30 per cent are more confident.

"Among those not confident of survival, 33 per cent have become less confident and only 14 per cent more confident.

"It is also the case that those who are unsure about survival are more likely to be less confident than they were two weeks ago."

Jo Lappin, chair of BERRG, said: “The survey provided a helpful opportunity to assess the impact of Covid-19 on Cumbria’s businesses.

“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.”

“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."