More than 2,600 people and businesses have been given mortgage holidays or reduced payments due to the Covid-19 crisis by the Cumberland Building Society.

As the Government announces that it is extending the mortgage payment holiday scheme, The Cumberland says that over 1,000 businesses have arranged payment breaks with it, and it has facilitated 1,650 personal mortgage holidays.

The Cumberland, which supplies more mortgages than any other bank or building society in the county, said the breaks equated to around 10 per cent of its mortgages.

Lewis Benson, area manager at The Cumberland, said the building society had initially faced a surge in calls as the lockdown hit the local economy.

It had to redeploy staff from all its departments to process them before direct debits were due to go out at the end of March.

He said: “We realised early on that there would be hundreds of our customers who were going to struggle to meet their payment in March, and we have been able to help all of them with either a payment holiday or reduced payments.

“Some of the calls were quite harrowing for our staff to deal with. It’s not just people saying ‘I’m not going to make my mortgage payment’, but also ‘I’m no longer employed and not sure how I’m going to feed my kids next week'."

The Cumberland reorganised its 45 mortgage advisors into area teams and consolidated its branch network as the coronavirus began to take hold.

As the number of calls escalated staff from other departments around the business were transferred to help with the caseload and process requests for help.

The Cumberland said it was preparing for another increase in requests later this month, as well as focusing on providing support for people who need to plan for the end of their mortgage holidays.

Mr Benson added: “We have seen a reduction in requests for mortgage holidays and now we have geared up to ensure we can help customers who are coming to the end or that break or looking at the changes to their finances brought on by this crisis.

“It is important for us to treat each customer as an individual and really take time to understand their circumstances.

“So it helps if people can start that conversation as early as possible so that we can work through the options with them. For most people the mortgage is their biggest bill so to get that bit sorted will give them some peace of mind when there is so much else to worry about.”