Eleanor Temple, chair of the insolvency and restructuring trade body R3 in Yorkshire and a barrister at Kings Chambers in Leeds, responds to today’s publication of the January 2023 corporate and individual insolvency statistics for England and Wales:
“Despite the monthly fall in corporate insolvencies, numbers are still higher than they were in January 2020, 2021 and 2022 – and not far below what they were in January 2019. And the reason for this is a rise in the numbers of Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations, which are higher than the previous three Januarys.
“Directors are still turning to this process to close down their businesses as trading conditions and creditor pressures remain tough – and many are taking this step before the choice is taken away from them.
“It’s been an unhappy New Year for businesses in England and Wales. The cost-of-living crisis and ongoing economic issues have meant the traditional new year spike in sales hasn’t happened, and we’ve seen a number of household names enter an insolvency process over the last month in an attempt to resolve their financial issues.
“As household disposable income contracts and pay lags behind inflation, many people are cautious about how and where they spend their money and are looking to make cuts in essential and non-essential spending.
“This is a further blow for businesses who are looking to get back on their feet after a torrid three years and are now caught in a pincer movement of rising costs and falling income.
“Our advice to directors, managers and owners is to be alert to the symptoms of business distress and to seek advice from a qualified source if they spot signs their firm is struggling.
“If they can see stock levels increasing, cashflow becoming a problem, or are struggling to pay rent, bills, taxes or staff, that’s the time to seek advice – and doing so as early as possible will give them more potential solutions and potentially a better outcome than if they’d waited until the problem became more severe.”
“The fall in personal insolvencies is a result of a drop in the number of people entering a Debt Relief Order and an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA). It’s important to note that some IVA numbers for the last two days of January haven’t been included in this month’s figures, so the true picture of personal insolvencies in England and Wales for January isn’t yet available.
“However, it’s worth noting that while bankruptcy numbers have increased monthly and yearly, they are still well below 2020 and 2019 levels. This suggests that while more people have entered a bankruptcy than last month, the cost-of-living crisis isn’t translating into an increase in the number of people needing this process to resolve their financial distress.
“Despite this, money worries are still front of mind for many people in England and Wales, and as costs rise and wages continue to lag behind inflation, people are watching their outgoings like hawks.
“Heating, eating and travelling are continuing to become more expensive, and there are a lot of people who are worried about their bills, their financial futures, and the economy and are cutting their costs wherever they can as a result.
“We urge anyone who is worried about money – whether that’s yours or your business’s – to seek advice as soon as possible. We know how hard it is to admit you’re struggling financially, but having that conversation at an early stage gives you more options and more time to consider your next move than if you’d waited till the situation worsened.
“Most R3 members will give a free consultation to potential clients so they can understand more about their position and outline the potential options for improving it.”