Small firms main casualties as 62,767 go bust

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The Independent Online
THE toll of business failures has risen nearly a third this year to record levels, according to figures published last night.

More than 170 companies, partnerships and one-man businesses went bust every day in 1992, according to Dun & Bradstreet. The year's total of 62,767 represents a 31 per cent increase on 1991. However, that was less than half the 65 per cent jump recorded in 1991.

Small firms have been hit hardest this year. Philip Mellor, Dun & Bradstreet's marketing manager, said: 'The slowdown in the pace of the larger company failures at 11 per cent has been achieved by drastically cutting back on costs, postponing investment plans and, in many cases, delaying payments. All of these factors rebounded on to the smaller firms, who have also been weighed down with bad debt.'

Labour responded by demanding immediate action to halt the decline in Britain's industrial capacity. Gordon Brown, the Shadow Chancellor, and Harriet Harman, his deputy, said: 'With these bankruptcy figures showing 1,200 business casualties every week . . . we fear that unless action is taken thousands of companies will close in 1993. There are now real fears that British industry may be too small to benefit from recovery. The Prime Minister's new year resolution must be immediate action to remedy Britain's dwindling industrial capacity and rising dole queues, with emergency jobs and investment and industry measures.'

A regional breakdown of the figures confirms that south-east England, excluding London, has suffered most heavily from recession with the number of business failures up 46 per cent.

The next biggest losers were Scotland and the South-west with failure rates up 36 and 35 per cent respectively. The increase was 32 per cent in the West Midlands, 27 per cent in the North-east, 26 per cent in Wales, 24 per cent in the East Midlands, 22 per cent in eastern England and the North-west and 18 per cent in London.