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Personal insolvencies in annual fall of 12% 5 August 2011

The figures show that total personal insolvencies increased marginally in the second quarter to 30,513 from 30,145 during the previous three-month period, although they are substantially lower than 2010 levels.

The total for the second quarter was made up of 11,113 bankruptcies, which were down 25.8 per cent on the corresponding timeframe in 2010, and 12,143 individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs), which fell 9.8 per cent on the same quarter a year ago.

The 30,513 also comprised and 7,257 debt relief orders (DROs), which were up 15.3 per cent year on year.

Alec Pillmoor, head of personal insolvency at Baker Tilly, said he fall in individual insolvencies should be seen in the context of the particularly high level they were at one year ago.

He explained that the difficulties in credit markets are still preventing individuals from consolidating loans and remortgaging, and this will, over time, lead to a slight, steady rise in IVAs and bankruptcies.

Pillmoor added: “The number of people subject to a formal insolvency process has remained largely consistent with the previous two quarters, reflecting that GDP and the levels of employment and mortgage lending have also remained broadly constant.

“Many people are benefiting from the historically low mortgage interest rates but the recent small (two per cent) growth in consumer credit may be reflecting a return to households borrowing in order to maintain their living standards.

“Whilst the level of personal insolvency has reduced from the all-time highs of 2009 and 2010, it must be remembered that the number of people becoming insolvent in the 12 months was one in 349, compared with an annual average over the last 25 years of one in 1,780.”

Charles Turner, partner at FRP Advisory, said: “The number of bankruptcies and IVAs may be falling compared to this time last year, but there is little doubt that many hundreds of thousands of individuals are living in a twilight world of serious indebtedness outside of the statutory personal insolvency framework.

“For them, formal personal insolvency solutions may well not be on their agendas - they either struggle on, limping from one financial crisis to the next or they bury their heads in the sand and invite creditors to do their worst; often in the full knowledge that creditors won't make them bankrupt because there would be little prospect of the creditor even covering the costs of initiating the process - typically in the region of £2,000.”

The statistics show that in the second quarter of 2011, 83 per cent of bankruptcies were made on the petition of the debtor, broadly comparable to the levels for recent quarters.

Bev Budsworth, managing director of The Debt Advisor, said that bankruptcy figures still remain relatively high over the last 12 months, indicating an outdated threshold as a contributing factor.

She added: “Creditors with debts of £750 or more can petition to bankrupt an individual. This level was set in 1986 and, since then, times have moved and this figure is now too low. R3, the trade body for business recovery professionals, is currently campaigning for this to be raised to a more realistic level of £3,000.

“I believe there also may have been a rush toward bankruptcy as the cost increased by £100 to £700 at the start of June. Making yourself bankrupt just got more expensive and this factor is likely to affect the estimated 60,000 bankruptcies that are predicted this year.”

R3 president Frances Coulson said: “The increase in personal insolvencies is likely to continue; we have seen over recent months living costs rise and high inflation effectively reducing take home pay.

"Added to the fuel hike that will hit families in the winter months, this may be the start of a worrying trend.”



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