A CUMBRIAN business chief has called on the Government to extend its furlough scheme to avoid "a big spike in unemployment".

Suzanne Caldwell, managing director of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, made the plea after the Office of National Statistics published figures that show the economy shrank by 9.9 per cent last year because of Covid-19.
The report, which came out Friday, shows GDP tumbling to its "largest yearly fall on record".
According to the report by the non ministerial department: "All four sub-sectors saw annual declines: services fell by 8.9 per cent; production fell by 8.6 per cent; construction fell by 12.5 per cent and agriculture fell by 9.4 per cent."
 Despite the falls the furlough scheme is due to close at the end of April.
Suzanne said: “These figures are no surprise, they confirm the findings of the latest British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey, which showed that all indicators remain below pre-crisis levels.
“Cumbria is particularly exposed because we have a large hospitality and tourism sector that is effectively in limbo.
“The latest data underlines the need for more help for cash-strapped businesses, such as extending and expanding business rates relief, prolonging VAT deferrals and offering more grant support.
“Cumbria has a high proportion of furloughed workers so it’s vital that the chancellor extends the Job Retention Scheme, which is due to end April. 
"If he doesn’t, we’re going to see a big spike in unemployment.”
In December the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, extended the furlough scheme from the end of March to April , after previous extensions, as a further boon to businesses.
At the time he said: “Our package of support for businesses and workers continues to be one of the most generous and effective in the world – helping our economy to recover and protecting livelihoods across the country.
“We’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support, as well as implementing our plan for jobs.”
Under the scheme the Government pay 80 per cent of employee's salaries for hours not worked during the pandemic.