DORSET businesses have borrowed more than three quarters of a billion pounds under the government’s Covid loan schemes.

Research shows 19,347 offers totalling £762.9million were made to the county business under the Bounce Back Loan initiative or the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.

The first repayments on the earliest loans were due last month and there are warnings that many businesses may collapse while still owing money under the schemes.

The highest borrowing locally was in Bournemouth West, where 2,957 businesses were offered a total of £88.2m under the Bounce Back Loans Scheme and 180 businesses received £45.1m in Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBils) – a total of £133.3m to 3,137 businesses, according to a study by insolvency company Business Rescue Expert.

In the constituency of Poole, Bounce Back Loans of £79.5m went to 2,603 firms and CBils of £44.9m to 180 businesses – a total of £124.5m to 2,783 businesses.

In Christchurch, £64.2m was advanced to 2,145 businesses in Bounce Back Loans and £34.5m to 155 businesses in CBIls – making £98.75m to 2,300 businesses.

In North Dorset, 2,127 businesses were offered Bounce Back Loans totalling £63m, while 154 offers of CBils totalled £32.2m – a total of £95.33m to 2,371 businesses.

In West Dorset, 2,339 businesses were offered Bounce Back Loans totalling £66.5m, while 147 were offered CBils totalling £28.5m – a total of £95m to 2,486 businesses.

Bournemouth East saw £68.1m offered to 2,502 businesses in Bounce Back Loans and £11.18m to 56 businesses in CBils – a total of £79.3m to 2,558 businesses.

Mid-Dorset and North Poole saw £54.2m advanced to 1,886 businesses in Bounce Back Loans and £24m to 97 businesses in CBils – making a total of £78.3m to 1,983 businesses.

The South West as a whole received 116,063 Bounce Back Loan offers totalling £3.3bn – an average of £28,432. But compared with the 562,545 businesses in the area, the ratio of loans to total businesses was the lowest in the country, at 20.6 per cent.

In Hampshire, New Forest West had £61m offered to 2,065 businesses in Bounce Back Loans and £39.3m to 154 in CBils – a total of £100.4m.

Chris Horner, insolvency director with Business Rescue Expert, said: “The data gives a fascinating insight into the distribution of bounce back loan borrowing across the whole of the country. It’s especially interesting when you look at which areas have seen the most businesses borrowing and the amounts they have loaned.

“Based on the insolvency cases of the small businesses we’ve worked with this year, over 41 per cent of them entered liquidation with an outstanding bounce back loan balance of £37,350 – higher than the individual borrowing averages of any location.

“No matter where a business is based, the important thing for them to remember is that they do have options if they’ve taken out a bounce back loan and think they’ll have trouble repaying it. By getting professional insolvency advice quickly, possibly before any potential problems appear, they will be in the best position to react and respond.

“After nearly two years of consistent decline, company insolvency figures are starting to rise once more and as support measures are removed later in the year, we’d only expect this trend to gather pace. It won’t happen at a uniform rate across the country, it will affect some areas more quickly and deeply than others. That’s why finding out more administration procedures and liquidation options now before circumstances force them to, could be the best call any business could make in 2021.”