SMALL businesses appear to be doing well in Bournemouth and Poole, against the national trend.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of micro-businesses – those with fewer than 10 employees – rose by 115 in Bournemouth and 60 in Poole between March 2017-18.

The increase of roughly two per cent compares with a marginal decline UK-wide. Christchurch saw a three per cent decline losing 45 micro-businesses over the year.

Tim Vorley, professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Sheffield, said the increase could be due to a mixture of start-up initiatives or a large employer moving out of the area, reducing employment opportunities and incentivising locals to start their own enterprises. He said: “It could demonstrate vibrancy within the economy and a strong local entrepreneurial culture.

“On the flip side, how many of these businesses will go on to fail after they’ve been created? We need to look at business survival rates, and focus on ensuring longevity and growth.”

The figures include VAT or PAYE-registered businesses based in the area, so they represent local independent businesses and head offices rather than branches of UK-wide chains.

Businesses with a turnover of above £85,000 must register for VAT, although a small number may choose to register voluntarily, and all employers must register for PAYE.

Micro-businesses make up nearly 90 per cent of all VAT or PAYE-registered firms in the UK.

And more than 80 per cent of such firms in the conurbation had fewer than five employees.

Self-employed people, who make up an estimated 76 per cent of all private sector businesses, are not counted in the figures.

The Federation of Small Businesses said “more encouragement” was needed to help people get started.

Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Despite rising costs and flagging consumer demand, we still have an increasing number of people taking the brave, exciting step of starting a small business.”

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that since 2012 their Start-Up Loans programme has provided more than 57,000 loans, totalling more than £436 million.

A spokesman said: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy we are determined to make the UK the best place to start and grow a business of any size.

“We are taking steps to help small and micro-businesses thrive, with the Government-owned British Business Bank currently supporting more than £5.2 billion of finance to almost 75,000 smaller businesses across the UK.”