A NEW economic report for Wirral has revealed company start-ups fell significantly during the first quarter of the year.

The latest Duport Business Confidence Report shows between January and March, there were 324 new companies formed - a 24% drop on the previous year and comparing poorly against a 12% rise in the UK as a whole.

Figures in the study also indicate 150 firms closed - a 36% increase in closures for the period.

The combination of a fall in company formation and a rise in closures led to a dramatic drop in net company growth.

During the three months, the company register grew by just 174, compared to 314 in the first quarter of 2013.

Duport managing director Peter Valaitis said: “Although the UK has moved out of recession, the figures in our latest report for Wirral are a reminder that trading conditions are still very tough in some areas.”

Duport analysed public record data from sources including Companies House, Office for National Statistics and Ordnance Survey.

Wirral Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paula Basnett said: “From a Chamber perspective, I don’t think the figures can be seen in isolation.

“Only recently the Contact Company announced a new project which will create 100 new jobs in Birkenhead, and if we look at the wider view, Wirral is second in the Liverpool City Region for successful Regional Growth Fund projects.

"Many individuals are now taking up to six months in starting their own business, and through our start up loans scheme, Wirral Chamber is helping encourage new growth.

“If we look at the vacant Pacific Road building in Birkenhead, we have already a 70% pre-let uptake on the units even before we have started the refurbishment work.”