Personal insolvencies predicted to have edged up annually in official figures

The number of people whose finances deteriorated so badly that they have become insolvent is predicted to have increased year-on-year in official figures released on Friday.

Audit, tax and consulting firm RSM expects that across England and Wales, around 24,500 people will have entered a personal insolvency process in the fourth quarter of 2017.

This would be an increase of nearly 7% compared with the same period a year earlier.

Figures already released by the Insolvency Service for the first three-quarters of 2017 show just over 74,000 people were declared insolvent across England and Wales.

Across the whole of 2016, there were 90,657 personal insolvencies.

RSM's predictions mean the total for 2017 could edge up to around 98,500 - which would be the highest annual figure seen in three years.

Tracker, RSM's "early warning system", predicts the total for the fourth quarter of 2017 will be made up of around 3,600 bankruptcies, 14,500 individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) and 6,400 debt relief orders (DROs).

Alec Pillmoor, a personal insolvency partner at RSM, said that with relatively low unemployment levels you would not necessarily expect to see an uplift in personal insolvencies, particularly as creditors are under increasing pressure to give debtors more time to settle arrears.

He continued: "Yet with a near-double digit annual increase in unsecured household borrowing, wages that are falling behind inflation and the recent interest rate rise, it seems that some households are having to borrow in order to maintain the same standard of living.

"As a result, some people are buckling under the pressure of problem debt."

He said: "When household finances are so tight, the slightest change to take home pay, interest rates or employment status can tip problem debtors into a formal insolvency process.

"There is a growing trend towards using an IVA to schedule repayments over a five-year period.

"But for others, seeking bankruptcy or a debt relief order is the only option.

"Indeed, four out of every five bankruptcies now result from debtor petitions when borrowers can find no other avenue to address problem debts."