Business support organisation Furness Enterprise said it will close at the end of August due to a lack of funding.
The organisation said in a statement on Monday: "Decisions on the allocation of what regeneration resources remain are being taken centrally in Whitehall and the shutting down of both the North West Development Agency and Barrow Regeneration has made the current funding environment by far the worst in Furness Enterprise's 21 years of operation. Significant and ongoing efforts to obtain alternative funding has not proved fruitful; funding applications have been made to the Regional Growth Fund and the Big Lottery, but the competition for these funds has been ferocious. All 18 staff at Furness Enterprise will be made redundant with the company shutting down at the end of August unless new funding is obtained before then, which currently looks unlikely."
Harry Knowles, chief executive of Furness Enterprise, added: "It is ironic that in the midst of the most difficult economic conditions we have experienced for decades with large numbers of people looking for work, very limited vacancies and with other regeneration and business support organisations shutting down, we are having to close. It is clear that the Government has moved away from a focus on deprived areas like Barrow to what it sees as areas of opportunity.
"With our closure there will be little or no free of charge support to help people set up sustainable new businesses, companies will struggle to get support for their investment opportunities, and unemployed individuals will not get the intensive support we provide. Our closure, due to lack of resources, will impact on a very deprived area, with a community and businesses that deserve better, together with the redundancy of an effective and experienced team. Obviously I personally am bitterly disappointed that the closure decision has happened but there was no alternative given the current poor funding situation. What we are seeing around the country is many local economic and social support organisations having to drastically cut back or close. My team will continue to look for funds to sustain Furness Enterprise's activities, as we always have, but the current funding environment is by far the worse I have known in 21 years of operation."
During its lifetime, Furness Enterprise said it helped bring about the High/Low Newton Bypass, secure Assisted Area Status for Furness, helped establish 2,000 businesses, with a survival rate of 76% after three years against the national average of 63%, and provided £5m of grants to Furness businesses, creating or safeguarding 1,500 jobs.