MORE than half a billion pounds has gone to Dorset businesses under the government’s two largest Covid loan schemes.

A total of 14,215 businesses in the county have received a total of almost £540million in offers of coronavirus business interruption loans (CBILS) and business bounce back loans (BBLS).

The BBL scheme provides a six-year loan of up to 25 per cent of a business’s turnover, up to £50,000.

The CBILS scheme offers business loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5m to businesses with a turnover less than £45m.

Among those helped last year was Dorchester’s household department store Goulds. It had spent a large sum on inventory for the summer season when the first Covid-19 shutdown happened.

Brian Tuson, chairman of Goulds (Dorchester) Limited, said: “CBILS has allowed us to survive the coronavirus lockdown and prepare for any challenges we might meet in the future. It’s also saved nearly 250 jobs in South West England.”

In Bournemouth West, 2,302 businesses received a total of £94.82m under the two loan schemes, while in Bournemouth East, 1,863 businesses received £57.66m.

In Poole, £85.27m was awarded to 2,045 businesses, and in Mid Dorset and North Poole, 1,437 received £51.15m.In South Dorset, 1,239 businesses received £41.28m, and in North Dorset, 1,767 businesses received loans of £72.15m. In West Dorset, 1,868 businesses received a total of £66.63m.

In Christchurch, £70.99m went to 1,694 businesses. In New Forest West, 1,614 borrowed £71.25m.

cross the South West, more than £4.8bn was provided to 116,063 businesses – nine per cent of the business population.

Catherine Lewis La Torre, chief executive of the government’s British Business Bank – which operates the loan schemes via accredited lenders – said: “Reducing regional imbalances in access to finance for smaller businesses is a key objective of the British Business Bank.

“Looking towards economic recovery, we’re pleased to see the Coronavirus loan schemes continuing to support smaller businesses in the South West in accessing the finance they need to keep trading and to support their future growth plans.”

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “These figures show very clearly that we have delivered on the solemn promise we made to support businesses across every part of the UK.

“While there are still tough times ahead, we will continue to offer all the support we can to protect jobs and keep businesses afloat so we can look to not only restart our economy, but build back better from the pandemic.”