POOLE still has fewer active businesses than it did before the pandemic, a report has found.

However, the town was the only part of Dorset where the total number of businesses grew in December 2021.

Poole had less than 96 per cent of the businesses at the end of last year than it did at the start of 2020, according to the report.

Dorset overall saw the net number of businesses increase by 3.1 per cent over the same period.

The figures come from the Growtion Business Growth Index, which sifts data from Companies House but uses an algorithm to remove “suspect” companies from the figures.

The Growtion study gives a score of 100 to the number of companies in existence in January 2020 and measures net growth against that.

It gave Dorset a score of 103.1 but Poole only 95.9, although Poole had 37 more businesses in December 2021 than the previous month.

“Poole’s longer-term growth has been the most challenged in Dorset. It still has yet to recover to the same level of active businesses that it had before the pandemic struck,” the report said.

Weymouth and Portland led the growth table with an index figure of 108.5. Purbeck scored 106.9, East Dorset 106.4, West Dorset 106, Bournemouth 105, North Dorset 103.8 and Christchurch 101.8.

The report said: “With a Business Growth Index figure of 105.1, the South West region has fared better than most in the months since the pandemic struck.”

The national average was 104.9.

“The strongest-performing regional counties, in terms of active business growth, are Devon (108.3) and Cornwall (106.9),” the report said.

“This confirms the anecdotal evidence that entrepreneurs have used their furlough and redundancy money – and lockdown time – to set up businesses in places further away from the traditional strongholds in the South East and London regions.”

It added: “The beautiful coastline and larger housing in the farthest reaches of the South West are also likely to have acted as inspirers of budding business builders.”

Across the South West, the personal services sector saw the biggest net growth, with a score of 113.2, followed by retail (110.1), production (105.4), and public services (104.5), while administrative services declined (99.2). Other sectors scored 104.