On the floor of the House of Commons yesterday, local MP Tim Farron challenged ministers to get a grip on the workforce crisis that is proving a major threat to businesses in Cumbria.Speaking during Treasury Oral Questions in Parliament, Tim said: "I hope that the minister is aware that one of the problems facing small and medium sized employers in Cumbria and elsewhere certainly in rural Britain is a serious lack of workforce.
"Cumbria Tourism reported that 63% of its members last year had to operate below capacity because they couldn't find sufficient staff to keep going - missing out on vital demand.
"Would she agree with me that the two key areas here - a lack of affordable housing for people to live close to the place they need to work in rural communities, and the fact that the Government have yet to come up with adequate visa provisions to allow us to supplement a local workforce with an overseas one?
"What action will she take to support small and medium sized businesses especially in hospitality in Cumbria and elsewhere?"
In response, the Exchequer Secretary Helen Whately MP said: "Well there was a great deal in the honourable gentleman's question there.
"Broadly it was about access to the workforce for businesses which on the one hand we have a really successful story on jobs - record numbers on pay rolled employment.
"But I also hear about businesses and the work they are doing to fill vacancies. We are supporting businesses for instance with our successful 'Way to Work Scheme' and the investment we are making in people's skills as well to make sure that people have the skills that align to the vacancies that employers are looking to fill."
Speaking afterwards, Tim said: "The minister's response was frankly not good enough - failing to even mention what the government is planning to do the address the housing crisis or visa rules.
"It does feel like the Government is not taking communities like ours seriously and are not listening to the major workforce problems we are facing in Cumbria."