Insolvencies hit three year high
The number of people becoming insolvent hit a three year pandora silver beads high in March as British households start to struggle with large debts taken on over years of cheap credit.
Most of the rise was by individual voluntary arrangements, arrangements where money owed is shared out between creditors. IVAs accounted for 59 per cent of the 24,531 personal insolvencies recorded across England and Wales last month.
Money woes: The number of people becoming insolvent hit an almost three year high, driven by a rise in individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) in the first quarter
Debt relief orders (DROs) available to people with less than 20,000 of debt accounted for a quarter (25 per cent) of personal insolvencies between January and March, while the remaining 16 per cent were bankruptcies, which are often seen as a 'last resort'.
Meanwhile, an estimated 3,967 companies entered insolvency in the first quarter of 2017, down 29.1 per cent fall compared with the last three months of 2016, but up by 5.3 per cent compared with the first quarter of 2016.
The Insolvency Service said a 'one off event' in the final quarter of 2016 had been behind an unusually high number of company insolvencies in the last three months of 2016.
But it said that if this one off event were to be excluded from the figures, the underlying trend would show a 4.5 per cent increase in company insolvencies compared with the underlying number in the final quarter of 2016.
Mark Sands, a personal insolvency partner at RSM, said: 'Employment levels are high, interest rates are at historic lows, so you would expect the level of financial distress within households to be relatively low.
'However, I think we are just beginning to see a change in the wind direction.
'Many people may have been tempted by attractive loan deals, car finance offers and low fixed rate mortgages but are now finding that shop price inflation is leaving them with less available cash to meet repayments when they fall due.'
The Insolvency Service's figures were released as the British Bankers' Association (BBA) said annual growth in consumer borrowing slowed in March in signs that rising prices are biting into people's spending.
The BBA said consumer credit grew by 6.1 per cent in March, down from a 6.5 per cent annual uplift in February.
Piling up: The BBA said consumer credit grew by 6.1 per cent in March, down from a 6.5 per cent annual uplift in February
A recent Bank of England survey of banks and building societies found lenders expect to impose stricter criteria for people trying to take out credit cards in the coming months.
Concerns have been raised over previous reports showing strong growth in consumer credit, prompting warnings that some households could be putting themselves at risk of over stretching themselves financially.
Adrian Hyde, president of insolvency and restructuring trade body R3, said: 'The past year and a bit has been much more challenging for businesses.
'The pound's fall in value since last year's referendum will have hurt importers, while many of the currency hedges that protected larger companies in the immediate aftermath of the referendum will have begun to unwind at the start of the year.'
He continued: 'It's worth noting, however, that insolvencies usually rise in the first three months of the calendar year as many companies come to the end of their financial year and have to make some difficult decisions.'
Hyde said rising inflation and slowing real wage growth will be limiting people's financial room for manoeuvre.
He said: 'Compared to where insolvency numbers were a few years ago, personal insolvency rates are still low and the recent bankruptcy rises have been very small.
'However, a continued gradual cheap pandora charms online upwards shift may be a sign that the post recession return of high levels of consumer borrowing and spending is starting to reach its limits.'
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