THE number of businesses that went insolvent in December was the highest for the month in four years, figures have shown.

R3, the trade body for restructuring and insolvency professionals in Dorset, said the figures show the extent of tough trading conditions.

Corporate insolvencies in England and Wales in December increased by 1.9 per cent compared to December 2022, while increasing by 78.9 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels in December 2019.

However, there was a fall of 18.9 per cent from November, which saw 2,470 insolvencies compared to 2,002 in December.

Neil Stewart, chair of R3’s Southern and Thames Valley region, including Dorset, said: “The corporate figures published today are the highest for December in four years and reflect the final month of a difficult year for businesses.

“December was challenging for many firms in Dorset as they faced additional expenses at a time when margins were already tight. These won’t have been helped by consumer spending slowing and rising energy costs.

“At the end of a tough year, these extra costs, coupled with slow trade, were the final blow for some businesses and led to their directors turning to an insolvency process to resolve their firm’s financial issues. “A sign in the front window of The New Forest Butcher in Lyndhurst, which ceased trading on 13 December 2023, said as much.”

Neil, a regional associate director at Manolete Partners, said he believes the new year can be a crunch time for businesses.

Neil said: “Our message to anyone in Dorset who is worried about money – whether that’s yours or your business’s – is simple.

“Seek advice as soon as possible from a qualified and regulated professional the moment you start to become concerned.

“There are no guarantees, as we know from the sad news in December that despite the gallant efforts of The Jubilee Sailing Trust, it wasn't possible to meet the ongoing monthly costs of operating their tall ships and substantial historic debts, but talking about your worries at an early stage will give you more time to take a decision about your next step and more options for moving forward.”