Cumbria is the second largest county in England. The county is made up of six districts; Allerdale, Barrow-in-Furness, Carlisle, Copeland, Eden, and South Lakeland. Carlisle is the only city in the county. The largest town in the county is Barrow-in-Furness, which is between two and three times larger than the second largest town (Kendal). Cumbria is a predominantly rural county and much of the county’s terrain is mountainous. This geography impacts on the costs and ease of delivering services.
With a population of just under 500,000 Cumbria is the second least densely populated county in England. Cumbria’s population is an ‘ageing’ population; the number and proportion of citizens within older age groups is increasing. While this trend is similar to trends seen at a regional and national level it is more exaggerated in Cumbria.
Small business play a large role in the county’s economy, there are 25,800 VAT/PAYE registered enterprises of which 84% (21,700) employ fewer than 10 people. There are around 700 social enterprises in Cumbria.
Business satisfaction with broadband speeds has fallen by 24% in the County since 2007. Faster broadband speeds are needed in particular in the visitor, health, primary industries and business and financial sectors.
The average broadband speed across the UK is 6.2 Mbps and Cumbria’s average is 6.1 Mbps. However, approximately 2 million households can’t access an acceptable level of broadband service. In the OFCOM Communications Infrastructure Report published in 2011 Cumbria scored in the worst category (category 5) in respect of the percentage receiving less than 2Mbps and for Superfast Broadband availability.