May’s figures see the highest monthly totals for over four years

Summer is generally a time of nice sunshine and cloudless skies but occasionally a thunderstorm will pop up out of nowhere to rain on everything. 

That’s what the latest set of corporate monthly insolvency figures issued by The Insolvency Service feels like. A sudden downpour out of a clear sky. 

Remember, the total number of business insolvencies recorded in England and Wales for March was a record 2,473 while April saw 1,685.

The total number of business insolvencies recorded in May in England and Wales was 2,552.

Needless to say, this is the highest monthly total recorded since January 2019.

The figures are up over 50% on the previous monthly total and up 40% from May 2022. To provide more context on the scale of these numbers, they are 151% higher than May 2021’s total of 1,013 insolvencies and 170% higher than May 2020’s pandemic affected total of 944. 


Of the record breaking 2,552 corporate insolvency cases recorded in May, the vast majority remain Creditor Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) with 2,181. 

This comprises 85% of the total number which is up 4% of the total ratio from last month and an increase of 813 actual cases. The number of CVLs in May was 38% higher than the previous month’s total. 

May saw 189 compulsory liquidations which includes winding up petitions – an increase of six cases but 34% higher than in May 2022. This is further evidence that HMRC and other creditors are forcing more companies to close down in order to secure some return on outstanding debts rather than let a company continue to trade and repay arrears over an extended time frame. 

There were 151 administrations in May which was 29 more cases than a month ago and 80% higher than in May 2022. 

There was also an increase in the number of Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) from 12 in April to 31 in May which is 258% higher and 121% higher than in May last year. 

The increases in CVAs and administrations further strengthen the view that while liquidations remain the vast majority of cases, some directors are still looking to find a way to preserve their company and find a way to keep trading and repay their debts and the business operating rather than closing. 

There were no receivership appointments recorded last month and one additional insolvency moratorium recorded with companies house bringing the total since June 2020 to 44 with an additional 21 companies having their business restructuring plans approved by a court. 

This is also the 24th out of the last 25 months when the total of monthly insolvencies was both over 1,000 and higher than the previous monthly total from 12 months ago. 


In Scotland there were a total of 97 company insolvencies in May which although lower than April by 17, was 4% higher than 12 months previously.

This comprised 57 CVLs (down from 64 last month); 35 compulsory liquidations (down from 41 in April) and five administrations (down from nine). There were no Scottish CVAs or receivership appointments recorded last month. 

Compulsory liquidations have historically been the most common form of business insolvency in Scotland but since April 2020, CVL’s have replaced them by nearly three times as many incidences. 

Northern Ireland

There were 11 company insolvencies registered in Northern Ireland in May which was an increase of three from last month but 45% lower than in May 2022. 

The number of cases in Northern Ireland tend to be significantly and traditionally lower than in England, Wales and Scotland. The percentages tend to vary more widely than in other areas because the number of cases is so small and one or two could be the equivalent of a 10% jump or fall or more. 

The total in May 2023 was comprised of eight CVLs (up from four last month); two compulsory liquidations (same as April) and one CVA (up from zero). There were no administrations or receivership appointments recorded. 

The total number of company insolvencies for the whole of the UK in May 2023 is 2,660 – an increase of 853 cases from April. 

“Directors are running out of time and options”

Nicky Fisher, President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body said: “Three years of economic turmoil is taking its toll on businesses. 

“May’s corporate insolvency figures are the highest we’ve seen since January 2019 as the fallout from battling the effects of the pandemic, coupled with rising costs, increased creditor pressure, and high inflation, is causing more businesses to turn to an insolvency process to help resolve their financial issues. 

“The key driver of the rise in numbers is the increase in Creditors Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs), which are also at a near-four and a half year high and more than twice the number they were in May 2019. 

“More and more directors are running out of time and options, and are choosing to liquidate their businesses before the choice is taken away from them.

“Firms are operating in a market where people are spending cautiously, costs are increasing and suppliers are chasing debts in an attempt to manage their own cash flow challenges, which is creating a tough climate for businesses of all sizes at a time where they need an injection of cash.

“While the summer months might provide some relief from energy costs, firms will have to pay to keep their premises, staff and customers cool, which will hit any potential savings. 

“Going forward, interest rates and inflation will continue to create challenges for businesses seeking funding over the summer, and could be the tipping point for those businesses who are hanging in there at present. 

“Directors need to remain vigilant to the signs their business could be distressed and seek advice if they start to see stock levels increase, cashflow become an issue, or begin to experience issues paying rent, staff or bills.”

After the lull of April, we’ve now returned to the same situation as March and the highest monthly corporate insolvency figures since 2019. 

Against the backdrop of stubbornly high inflation and the probability of interest rates being raised to 5%, it’s a worrying time for business owners and directors. 

This is why we offer a free, initial consultation for them to better understand what options they have available to protect their business while making essential changes to allow it to prosper. 

Alternatively, if they have decided that closure is the best choice then we can work with them to ensure the process is as stress free and straightforward as possible allowing them to move onto their next professional venture as quickly as possible. 

No matter what direction they want to move in, the first step should be getting in touch with us to arrange a virtual meeting. The rest is up to them.