A REPORT by a local insolvency services firm has found almost 1,500 businesses in Swindon are in significant financial distress.

Begbies Traynor, a consultancy based on Windmill Hill Business Park, has published its Red Flag report which monitors the financial health of companies across the UK.

It showed there were 1,466 businesses in the town in financial distress in the last quarter of 2018, which is up by two per cent on last year.

Swindon companies in the automotive and property sectors are faring the worst, with those considered to be in significant financial distress having increased by 24 per cent and 11 per cent respectively during the past quarter, according to the report.

Commenting on the figures, Julie Palmer, regional managing partner at Begbies Traynor, said business across the board were struggling.

“After a period of relative stability, these figures for Q4 show that Swindon businesses have experienced a winter of discontent," she said.

"Customers for traditional shop‐front retailers are going online and the uncertainty of Brexit is having an effect on investment in a number of sectors.

"It seems, for the last quarter at least, that businesses are holding out for a decision on the terms of Brexit in order to see where they stand, which is having a knock‐on effect on consumer confidence.

“With 2019 set to be a year of change, Swindon businesses ‐ not only retailers – will need to adapt and rapidly evolve to survive.”

She added: "Businesses such as HMV went into administration during the Christmas period and others such as M&S and Debenhams reported poor Christmas trading. While the number of retailers in significant distress only increased slowly year on year since Q4 2017, we expect that this is due to heavy discounting giving retailers more cash and delaying their entry into danger.

"The industry should be braced for a tough start to 2019. However, others including Next fared better, demonstrating that a mix of quality product as well as developing a good online and offline offering will see retailers thrive."

Nationally, the report shows the number of businesses in significant distress now stands at 481,000, leaping by 15,000 during Q4 2018, after a winter of uncertainty.

The hardest hit sector was property, which not only saw a seven per cent (3,134) increase in the number of companies in significant distress from Q3 2018 to Q4 2018, but a 9 per cent year on year increase, equating to 4,013 extra businesses.