The Bank's Trends in Lending report showed that lending by major UK banks and building societies fell by £4bn, which was the biggest drop since March 2010, when lending fell by £4.1bn. Over a three-month period, lending to businesses fell by about £9bn, taking the total outstanding stock of loans to £443bn.
Annual lending to businesses is now falling at a rate of about 3pc, while the average annual growth rate before the financial crisis took hold was more than 15pc.
John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said the latest figures were "very disappointing, but not surprising", and showed the Government's plan to boost lending to help small businesses had failed.
Smaller and medium-sized business have struggled to access funding as lenders have become more risk averse during the crisis. At the same time larger businesses with healthy cash reserves have been unwilling to invest because of the uncertainty created by the eurozone debt crisis and general weak outlook.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday are expected to show Britain narrowly escaped recession in the first quarter, with growth of just 0.1pc between January and March.