Personal insolvencies rise

Philip Whiterow
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:51

More people were declared insolvent over the past three months, official figures showed today.

The Insolvency Service said the number of personal insolvencies rose to 30,513 in the three months to June, up from 30,145 in the first quarter.

On a year-on-year basis the personal insolvency total fell by 12.2% from this time in 2010.

There was another sharp fall in personal bankruptcies over the period, but this was offset by rises in Individual Voluntary Arrangements and Debt Relief Orders.

Personal insolvencies had fallen in each of the last three quarters prior to these latest figures despite the tough economic background, but even with the slight rise in the last quarter 2011 could see lowest annual total since 2008, insolvency practitioners suggest.

Companies going bust continued to rise both on a quarterly and yearly basis, with the number of company liquidations up by 112 on the first quarter at 4,233 and by 4.4% on this time last year.

The number of firms entering administration fell though, from 782 to 695 and down by almost 11% on the previous year despite some big name casualties, especially among retailers with high street household names Habitat and Jane Norman both recently appointing administrators.

The Insolvency Practitioners Association said there were a number of potentially worrying trends not covered in today's figures, such as the rise in payday loans and in voluntary schemes, where there is less legal protection.

It also reported an increase in bankruptcy petitions against the self-employed, which it suggests reflects traders feeling the pinch from weak demand, higher utility costs and especially higher petrol bills.

Pat Boyden, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, added that the low level of bankruptcies reflected a decline in lending and the benefit of low interest rates.

According to the Government's tax and spending watchdog the Office of Budget Responsibility, household debt will rise to nearly £2.2 billion by 2015, with an average household owing more than £80,000 including mortgages.

Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "The one piece of good news for financially struggling households is that the Bank of England now seems unlikely to raise interest rates until deep into 2012.

"Even a small rise in interest rates could well send a significant number of financially stretched people over the edge."

That also applies to the corporate sector, though companies are not experiencing the same levels of volatility seen in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, according to David Costley-Wood, restructuring partner at KPMG.

He said: "Real estate is the only sector to have seen a significant increase in administration appointments (up 8% on the previous quarter) and a more substantial increase in company voluntary arrangements (up 25% on the previous quarter)."


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