BUSINESSES in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have borrowed more than £1.6billion in government Covid loans.

Research shows 40,879 offers were made to businesses in the county under the Bounce Back Loan initiative or the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.

The first repayments on the earliest loans were due last month.

The highest borrowing locally was in Winchester, where 2,048 businesses were offered a total of £61.7million under the Bounce Back Loan scheme and 163 were offered £41.2m in Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBils), according to a study by insolvency company Business Rescue Expert. That adds up to £102.9m for 2,211 businesses.

In Fareham, £63.8m was offered to 2,106 businesses in Bounce Back Loans and £37.65m in 161 CBIls, totalling £101.5m for 2,267 firms.

New Forest West saw 2,065 businesses offered Bounce Back Loans totalling £61m, while 154 firms were offered CBils totalling £39.3m – adding up to £100.4m to 2,219 businesses.

Eastleigh saw £63.8m offered to 2,289 firms in Bounce Back Loans and £31.1m in 132 CBils, making £95m in total for 2,421 firms.

In Romsey and Southampton North, 1,886 businesses were offered £57.5m in Bounce Back Loans and 127 were offered £26.8m in CBils, making £84.35m for 2,013 businesses.

In Southampton Test, 2,075 businesses were offered £64.4m in Bounce Back Loans and 76 were offered £18.8m in CBils, making £83.3m for 2,151 businesses.

Southampton Itchen had £56.3m offered to 1,983 businesses in Bounce Back Loans and £20.25m to 74 businesses in CBils.

In New Forest East, Bounce Back Loans totalling £47.3m were offered to 1,655 firms and 103 CBils totalled £28.5m – making £75.8m for 1,758 businesses.

In Gosport, 1,404 businesses were offered a total of £34.4m in Bounce Back Loans and £19.6m in CBIls was offered to 76 firms, making £54m for 1,404 businesses.

Figures for the whole county and the Isle of Wight make £1.64bn for 40,879 businesses.

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.”