A radical proposal to bus in workers from unemployment hotspots in Cumbria in a bid to solve the staffing crisis hitting the hospitality sector in North Lakeland is being developed.
Keswick town and county councillor Tony Lywood has been in discussions with Rob Jones, the managing director of Stagecoach, about putting on affordable buses to bring young people from places like Cleator Moor, Whitehaven and Egremont to the North Lakes to work in the area’s hotels, bars and restaurants.
As it stands it takes two or three buses to get from Cleator Moor to Keswick, taking around two hours.
Councillor Lywood says that if dedicated bus services are introduced, the journey time and cost could be slashed in half.
“For me it’s a no brainer,” said Mr Lywood, who is keen to make it happen so the area can tap into the 20 per cent of young people who are unemployed in north Copeland.
“What we need to ensure is that there is an affordable service direct to where the work is. Stagecoach is more than happy to help and work with the business community here.”
The staffing crisis in Keswick’s hotels, restaurants and bars is so acute that many establishments are still operating with reduced opening hours so workers can cope with the high demand from staycation tourists.
In May, The Keswick Reminder conducted an extensive survey across the hospitality sector which found that three quarters of businesses were in need of more staff.
Employers have reacted positively to the proposal and Stephen Williamson, a manager at the Derwentwater Hotel, said: “It certainly sounds like a great idea. If we’re able to tap into the labour in places like Cleator Moor then we welcome the move.
“A lot of places in and around Keswick are in need of staff at the moment. We are recruiting for various positions across our teams now so certainly if we can bring employment in then great.”
While approving of the proposal, he did stress that affordability will be crucial for a successful scheme. “People need to see the money in their pocket at the end of the month, not just spending it on petrol or bus tickets. That’s the key.”
Mike Starkie, the elected mayor for Copeland, said: “I welcome any proposals to improve local transport links, and provide additional services for both residents and visitors.
“Specialist bus services for the likes of Center Parcs, which employs a number of Copeland’s residents, are already in operation and have proven successful.
“The service should not only allow Copeland’s residents to seek new employment opportunities, but should encourage visitors to explore the picturesque western Lake District.”
Keswick Town Council was due to discuss the proposal at its last meeting.