Rory Stewart brought his unique awareness and insight into the situation in Cumbria and nationally to an online charity event last week, headlining Cumbria Community Foundation’s Annual Showcase event, Stronger Foundations – the way through COVID-19.
The former MP for Penrith and the Border and candidate for leader of the Conservative Party and London Mayor endorsed a local, flexible approach to the issues the county is facing, a response that he said the Foundation was best able to provide. “We should focus very much on supporting organisations like Cumbria Community Foundation that have the local knowledge, the compassion, the interest and above all, the flexibility to respond to the hundreds of different issues that we’re likely to face,” said Rory.
Rory talked about the stark unemployment statistics affecting the county and the economic disparity between different areas of Cumbria that was apparent before COVID-19 and exacerbated by the pandemic. Due to the tourism-reliant nature of the South Lakes economy, 42% of the workforce in the district has been claiming furlough support or other forms of government aid over recent months, explaining the area’s economy is a ‘special case’ that makes further aid necessary. As well as the importance of tourism, Rory talked about farming and the very extreme problems that are being posed on rural communities by COVID-19 and potential issues by new trade deals now we have left the European Union.
He went on to talk about how the county can build back on stronger foundations and move forward during these challenging times. One option he suggested was the appointment of a mayor for Cumbria: “We need somebody who can really come up with policies that respond closely to Cumbrian needs and who has the power to raise money and spend money.”
Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive at Cumbria Community Foundation gave an update to the online audience of almost 200 people on the charity’s work over the past year and the challenges faced by community groups. The Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund was launched in March 2020 and to date has awarded £1.5 million to over 160 groups across Cumbria. The needs continue to evolve as the situation develops and donations to the fund are needed as much as ever.
Andy said: “We are delighted that Rory Stewart, who knows the county so well, was able to join us and speak about the way forward for Cumbria through COVID-19.
“It was very inspirational to hear from food initiative, S.H.I.N.E. (Support, Help in Nourishing Everyone), which was established during the pandemic to support vulnerable people in Brampton, and Love Barrow Families who shared their experiences of how their organisations are supporting the most vulnerable of our communities. We would like to thank everyone who took part and supported the event.”
The Foundation was also pleased to welcome members and supporters of the newly launched Cumbria Club to its first annual showcase event. The Foundation’s Vice President, Lord Bragg introduced the Cumbria Club to the wider audience, and the Foundation looks forward to Cumbria Club members around the country widening the net of moral and financial support for the county.
A full recording of the event and interviews is available here: https://youtu.be/UiJ4wDV2hSM
If you would like to know more about supporting the work of Cumbria Community Foundation visit www.cumbriafoundation.org