More than 1,000 Bolton companies have gone to the wall in just three years, one of the highest rates of insolvencies in the country.

New data shows that between 2019 and 2022 a total of 1,197 firms were wound up across the borough.

This comes amid makes Bolton one of the worst affected areas in the country with soaring fuel bills and the withdrawal of government support blamed for the rise.

Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi said: “These shocking figures reflect the feedback I am getting from local businesses from my surveys and inbox.

“While many high streets are struggling, it is clear Bolton has experienced specific difficulties.

The Bolton News: Bolton South East MP Yasmin QureshiBolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi (Image: Office of Yasmin Qureshi MP)

“The failure of the levelling up bids from government and a lack of action to attract new investment and to support existing business has led to us having among the worst figures in the region.

“We cannot accept this managed decline.”

The figures, gathered by the BBC Shared Data Unit from insolvency notices in The Gazette, showed that voluntary liquidations were the most common way for businesses to be shut down.

In Bolton’s case the wave of closures was particularly devastating, coming far ahead of neighbouring borough’s like Bury with 247 insolvencies since 2019 and Wigan with 134.

Even the city of Manchester, with a far larger population, was only slightly ahead of Bolton with 1,240 businesses closing over the same period.

Of Bolton’s 1,197 insolvencies nearly half, 501, came last year alone.

Aside from companies going bust in Bolton, the town centre is facing challenges with big names leaving.

Heron Foods departing Bolton town centre in January 2022 and Argos announcing that it would close its Bridge Street store.

So far the borough’s high street has already had a hard first half of 2023, with well known brands like Marks & Spencer and Clinton Cards leaving the town centre.

But though Bolton Council leaders say they are disappointed to see firms go insolvent, they believe they can remake Bolton town centre into a new centre for leisure and urban living.

Deputy leader Cllr Akhtar Zaman said: “These are disappointing figures, but they reflect a broader trend as shifting consumer habits and other economic changes impact high-street businesses across the UK.

“Because Bolton was previously a leading retail destination, with a large number of high-street businesses, we have been especially impacted by these trends.

“In response to this, our regeneration plans are shifting the town centre away from a retail focus to include a mix of residential, hospitality and leisure.

The Bolton News: Housing developments like Moor Lane could show the way to alternative uses for the town centre, according to town hall leadersHousing developments like Moor Lane could show the way to alternative uses for the town centre, according to town hall leaders (Image: Newsquest)

He added: “By creating this series of urban neighbourhoods we aim to make the town centre a more vibrant place to live, visit and start a business.

“These plans will be backed by strategies designed to support local business, build on our strengths as a cultural hub and attract more visitors.

“Insolvency can be an extremely difficult time for business owners and their employees.

“Support is available via Business Bolton, The Business Growth Hub, Team Bolton Partnership and The Workshop.”

Federation of Small Businesses member lead Michael Weedon shared a similar analysis of how town's like Bolton have been affected by a changing high street. 

He said: “We’ve seen large rises in insolvencies, particularly in places where there are more independent businesses.

“Large cities tend to be the home of bigger businesses so the outskirts of big cities and smaller places, where there are more independents, are seeing the effect of these liquidations.”

He added: “We can see that commuter-belt towns have suffered some of that consequence.

“Those smaller businesses have suffered as we have come away from the pandemic.”

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But the government claims it is working to try to support smaller businesses across the country, particularly where energy supplies are concerned.

A spokesperson said: “The Business Minister recently wrote to the CEO of Ofgem to raise this issue and ask them to ensure energy suppliers show forbearance to businesses that are struggling to pay energy contracts, and government support does not go to waste.

“We have already provided around £400 billion of direct support to businesses, including business grants, coronavirus loan schemes, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, plus income tax payment deferral.

“This is alongside a new arbitration scheme to help resolve pandemic related rent debt.”