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Oct 2021 stats

It’s in the spirit of anti climax we look at the newly released official monthly company insolvency statistics by the Insolvency Service - because after increasing for two consecutive months they have fallen back again.

The number for England and Wales inclusively last month was 1,405, which although similar to pre-pandemic levels was 3% (41) lower than the previous month’s total.  

It was still 63% higher than the same month in the previous year but was 5% lower than the pre-pandemic total of October 2019. 

Despite the slight monthly fall in numbers, October 2021 was the sixth month in succession when the number of corporate insolvencies were over 1,000 and were also higher than the corresponding figure for the year before. 

Of the total 1,405 company insolvencies, the vast majority are still Creditor Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) which made up 1,248 of the total amount. 

This is higher than pre-pandemic levels but other types of company insolvencies such as compulsory liquidations including winding up orders remain lower. 

There were a total of 46 compulsory liquidations last month; 95 administrations and 16 company voluntary arrangements (CVAs). 

If we break the figures down further we can see:

Scotland

There were a total of 68 corporate insolvencies in Scotland in October, down from 70 recorded in September. 

This consisted of 12 compulsory liquidations (8 in September), 54 CVLs (52 in September) and two administrations (down from 10 last month). There were no CVAs or receivership appointments this month. 

The total of 68 was 58% higher than in October 2020 but 18% lower than October 2019. 

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland in October there were 14 company insolvencies registered which is three more than the previous month and 75% higher than a year ago but remains 73% lower than pre-pandemic October 2019. 

This was made up of 12 CVLs, one administration and one compulsory liquidation. There were no CVAs or receivership appointments registered. 

The overall number of UK company insolvencies for October 2021 is 1,487 which is down by 40 from September but remains higher than the 1,446 recorded in August.


 

“The business climate is still harsh”

Christina Fitzgerald, Deputy Vice President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body, said: “The month on month fall in corporate insolvencies has been driven by a reduction in the number of Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs). 

However, there are still twice as many companies entering this procedure than this time last year, and nearly 20% more than in 2019. 

“This would suggest that there are still a fair number of company directors who are choosing to close their business after deeming post-pandemic success unlikely. However, the fact that overall corporate insolvencies are 5% lower than the number in October 2019 suggests that the Government’s support measures have prevented the economic consequences of COVID from translating into higher levels of corporate insolvency. 

“The business climate is still harsh. Economic growth is slowing, costs are rising, and consumer confidence is falling. 

“And although consumer spending is higher than it was this time last year, rising COVID case numbers and sharp energy price rises have meant many businesses aren’t seeing the benefits of this. 

“As we move closer to Christmas, we would urge company directors to be mindful of the signs of business distress, which include cash flow problems, issues paying invoices, and concerns about paying staff, and seek advice as soon as they appear.”

For the sixth month in a row, company insolvencies are higher than they were in the corresponding month six months ago and are approaching parity with the same levels they were about before the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns began. 

Against this backdrop, businesses are having to contend with an uncertain pre-Christmas trading period with the threat of Covid-19, staffing shortages, supply chain problems and growing debt obligations. 

Businesses with outstanding bounce back loan payments, VAT and PAYE arrears and other unmanageable commitments might be wondering how they will manage to make it through the New Year and into early 2022, let alone return to profitability. 

There might be a solution within their reach if they get in touch with us first

We offer a free initial consultation to any business owner or director who wants to discuss their situation in more detail with one of our experienced advisors. 

Once they have a firmer grasp of the situation, they will be able to recommend various courses of action they can take to help turn their situation around. 

Alternatively, if the debts are too problematic to deal with then they can also explain the various options they can use to close their business with a minimum of fuss and stress and ensure that creditors receive their due.

Q3 insolvency

A total of 3,765 overall insolvencies including liquidations and administrations were recorded over this period - which is 17% higher than in the previous quarter covering April to June and is 43% higher than the same quarter from the previous year. 

Creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs) was the most common procedure as it featured in 92% of all insolvencies with 3,471 cases. 

This is a rise of 16.7% compared to the previous quarter this year and a rise of 43.5% compared to the same period a year ago. 

4% of the remaining number of cases were administrations, 3% were company liquidations and the remaining 1% were company voluntary arrangements or CVAs.

Administrations and receiverships increased by 26% from the previous quarter and additionally company dissolutions or strike offs increased 52.1% compared to a year ago with 53,325, which was also a rise of 19.9% (25,799) on the same period in 2019 before the pandemic arrived. 

Compulsory or forced liquidations remained at near all-time lows with 172 due to a combination of support measures such as the bounce back loan, CBILS and the furlough scheme as well as restrictions on creditor actions such as being able to bring winding up petitions against debtors.

There was also a reduction in the number of members voluntary liquidations (2,862) and company voluntary administrations (CVAs) with 22 - down from 67 twelve months ago. 

Economic damage now reflected in the figures

Nick Fisher, Deputy Vice President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body, said: “The economic damage caused by the pandemic is now starting to be reflected in the levels of corporate insolvency  - but the picture is mixed when looking at the different types of procedure.

“Corporate insolvencies have risen this quarter to the highest quarterly figure since the pandemic began, and this has been driven by a rise in creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs) to their highest quarterly total in 12 years. 

“That said, administrations have remained static compared to Q2, while there has been a small drop in the number of CVAs; both of which are much lower compared to the year before.

“The rise in CVLs would suggest that company directors are choosing to close their businesses after trading for more than a year and a half during the pandemic and deeming future success unlikely. 

“This is understandable given the current economic climate. Over the last three months, businesses have faced a perfect storm of rising energy prices, labour market and supply chain issues, coupled with the winding down and withdrawal of the Government’s support measures. 

“In addition to this, consumer spending and confidence declined over the late summer and early autumn as people worried about their finances and the future of the economy, and cut back on their spending as a result.”

Chris Horner, insolvency director with BusinessRescueExpert.co.uk said: “We’ve been expecting to see company insolvencies increase for a little while so it’s no big surprise to see them increase. 

“Contributing factors include the end of the furlough scheme and businesses who deferred HMRC liabilities starting to repay them as well as other borrowing such as CBILS and bounce back loans also coming due. 

“A factor in the increase in creditors voluntary liquidations may be that under specific conditions winding up petitions can be pursued by creditors again so directors might have chosen to take action now rather than await others taking it. 

“We’ve all seen the news about higher inflation, staff shortages, increasing energy prices, possible interest rate rises and the need to repay pandemic incurred debt.  Any combination of which would likely lead to a further increase in insolvencies in the next quarter covering October, November and December this year. 

“Any of these will put additional pressure on businesses over the upcoming Christmas period, especially those in the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors that have already suffered disproportionately over the past 18 months and need a positive response in the next three months. 

“Any business owner or director that’s worrying about whether their company will be able to have a good enough festive sales period to meet their outgoings can use this time constructively. So can those that know they won’t be able to service their debt obligations regardless of their performance over the next three months.”

It will be 2022 in less than two months so time is short.

But there will be enough to help a company turn its fortunes around if those in charge use the time properly and get in touch with us to begin to work on a recovery strategy. 

They can book a free initial consultation with one of our experienced advisors online, by phone or email for a convenient time and day for them. 

Once we have a clearer idea of the situation facing them and their business, we can begin to put together the most appropriate, efficient and effective strategy to fix their problems and make 2022 a real year of recovery and renewal. 

But only if they take the first step of the journey right now and get active in their own rescue. 

Turnover review

The headline figures that spell out exactly what is required from each party and by when? The clauses that can invalidate the whole deal if not adhered to or, cliche though it might be, the small print?

While they’re all significant - it’s the small print which often trips people up or suddenly makes them realise that a deal they signed is a lot worse or more expensive than what they initially thought they’d signed up for. 


Is liquidation possible with a bounce back loan?


We came across a cautionary example recently concerning a company being denied access to its bounce back loan funds that it took out over a year previously.

The business took out a bounce back loan of £50,000 from their lender in May 2020. 

Despite being relatively easy to access compared to regular business loans or other kinds of corporate finances, the bounce back loan was not without restrictions and eligibility criteria. 

One of the main ones being that loans were linked to and limited by annual turnover. 

Specifically businesses were entitled to a bounce back loan amount up to a maximum of 25% of their annual turnover provided this did not exceed £50,000. 

So the company directors were surprised when they were contacted in June this year by the lender, 13 months after the loan was granted, to demand further evidence of their annual turnover. 

They said that until they received proof they would not permit the company to access any of the remaining bounce back loan money still held in their account. 

They also confirmed that if the directors were unwilling or unable to provide the requested information, or if their review of the evidence concluded that the business was ineligible for the loan then they may exercise their right to debit any remaining money from their account for the loan and commence recovery action for any outstanding sum. 
In the event, the company was unable to prove that it had a sufficiently high turnover based on their trading figures at the time which were hampered and disrupted by the pandemic and their bank demanded repayment of the loan. 

Unable to pay off this amount in full, the borrowing company decided to apply for a regular business loan to raise the necessary amount and then be able to pay it off over a longer period. 

The bank not only rejected this application but also withdrew their banking facilities and served notice to close their account fully within 90 days. 

This left the directors with no viable way forward and they reluctantly placed the business into a creditors voluntary liquidation.  

We’ve previously written about how HMRC are keen to begin recouping outstanding debts including bounce back loan arrears and the forthcoming Ratings (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) bill making its way through the House of Lords will grant additional powers to the Insolvency Service to investigate the actions of directors of dissolved businesses within the previous two or more years. 

However, the turnover requirement was always one of the more problematic elements of the bounce back loan especially regarding accessing the top up facility if it was needed.

When top ups were first announced in November 2020, they were welcomed as a sensible additional option for companies that had taken some borrowing but not the maximum amount. 

They could then use this flexibility if they required it and with further lockdowns being implemented, many did. 

What happened was that many businesses were initially turned down for a top up despite meeting the other criteria because of the turnover rule. 

Because companies had to rely on the figure they supplied with the initial application, they were not able to reflect the current circumstances facing their business when they applied. 

In the initial application rules several banks stipulated that an estimate for the 2019 turnover figure could be used if they didn’t have the exact and verifiable amount available when applying. 

And in the top up application conditions it specifically states - the top-ups are only available from a borrower’s existing BBLS lender. A borrower can apply for a top-up that is for the lesser of £50k or 25% of the annual turnover the borrower certified in their original successful BBLS application form minus the value of their original loan. 

This obliged the borrower to rely on the original turnover figure quoted when applying for the initial bounce back loan but with no consideration given to any changes in circumstance. 

The British Business Bank, which administered the scheme on behalf of the government, inadvertently encouraged businesses to use potentially inaccurate information on their application with the obvious potential for negative consequences further down the line for borrowers as we saw in the earlier example.  

Bounce back loan fraud was a real issue that had to be treated seriously but loopholes like relying on an estimated turnover means that many borrowers could find themselves under suspicion through no fault of their own - for not making accurate enough predictions!

Business owners and directors are already facing an uncertain few weeks before Christmas and the New Year without worrying about being asked questions about their bounce back loan. 

Especially if it’s already been used for the purposes it was created for - supporting a company and it’s staff under the most trying trading circumstances for decades. 

Fortunately we can help alleviate any worries about outstanding bounce back loans, VAT arrears or any other debts they might be concerned about with a simple conversation. 

We offer a free initial consultation to discuss their situation and any imminent problems they’re having regarding problem debt or any financial issues affecting their business. 

Once we get a fuller picture we can let them know what options they have in the near and longer term and what they can do right now to improve their prospects. 

Sept 2021 stats

They are now at their highest total since March 2020 according to the latest official monthly company insolvency statistics released by The Insolvency Service

The number for England and Wales inclusively last month was 1,446 - which has increased by 98 from 1,348 in August (up 7.2%) and is also 56% higher than the corresponding period of September last year when there were only 928 insolvencies recorded. 

The figure is now only slightly lower (4%) than the last pre-pandemic period two years ago when 1,510 were recorded in September 2019 but it appears to be only a matter of time until the numbers rise higher than this watermark. 

September 2021 was also the fifth consecutive month when the number of corporate insolvencies had been over 1,000 and were also higher than the previous year’s corresponding figure. 

Out of the 1,446 company insolvencies, the majority are Creditor Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) which make up a huge 1,328 (91%) of the total number.

This is the highest number of CVL’s seen since January 2019 and has driven the overall number higher as the other types of company insolvencies such as compulsory liquidations have remained lower. 

Of the other recorded insolvencies this month there were 25 compulsory liquidations, 81 administrations and 12 company voluntary arrangements (CVAs). There were no receivership appointments. 

Analysing these results further can reveal more about the overall trends including:

Additionally 14 companies obtained an insolvency moratorium between June 26 and September 30 2021 and nine companies had a restructuring plan registered at Companies House.


There were 70 corporate insolvencies recorded in Scotland in September, down from the 89 recorded in August. This is 63% higher than in September 2020 but 8% lower than the same period in 2019. 

This total comprised eight compulsory liquidations (11 in August); 52 creditor voluntary liquidations (down from 76 last month) and 10 administrations (up from 2 last month). There were no CVAs or receivership appointments. 

Compulsory liquidations used to be the main driver of Scottish company insolvencies but since April 2020 there have been more than twice as many creditor voluntary liquidations. 

In Northern Ireland there were 11 company insolvencies which is two more than the nine recorded in the province for August 2021. This was 10% higher than a year ago but 69% lower than the pre pandemic period of September 2019. 

This consisted of nine creditor voluntary liquidations, an administration and a CVA. There were no compulsory liquidations or receivership appointments. 

The overall number of UK company insolvencies for September 2021 is 1,527 which is up 81 from the 1,446 UK total from August.


 
“A rocky road ahead for the business community”

Nicky Fisher, Deputy Vice President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body said: 

“The latest statistics show the economic effects of the pandemic are continuing to take a toll on businesses and consumers. 

“The dramatic increase in corporate insolvencies compared to this time last year - to the highest level since January 2020 - illustrates just how crucial the Government’s support had been in keeping businesses afloat and suggests that there may be a rocky road ahead for the business community now it has ended.

“The monthly increase in corporate insolvencies was driven by a rise in Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations, which increased for the third consecutive month. 

“This suggests that directors are choosing to close their businesses after deeming their financial survival unlikely after 18 months of trading through a pandemic. 

“Despite the fact that businesses have benefitted from two months of restriction-free trading and the economic boost over the summer, conditions are still not back to where they were before the pandemic. 

“Consumers are now increasingly cautious about the state of the economy, their personal finances and the increased cost of living and are more wary about spending their money. 

“And with widespread supply chain disruption and significant wholesale energy price increases building up between September and October, there is likely to be little slack in the system for businesses and individuals who have yet to get back on their feet following the impact of Covid-19.”


For a fifth month in succession company insolvencies are higher than they were in the same month a year ago and are quickly approaching the same or higher numbers than before the pandemic lockdowns began being enforced. 

Businesses now have to contend with a busy pre-Christmas trading period while the last of the Covid-19 support measures have been removed. 

Some, such as winding up petitions, remain with restrictions but as HMRC begins to get serious in clawing back outstanding bounce back loans, VAT and other tax arrears, it could be a bleak winter for those that don’t have a plan to deal with their liabilities and debts.

Fortunately, business owners and directors can arrange a free initial consultation with one of our experienced advisors quickly and at the most convenient time for them. 

They will work with them to understand what the most pressing financial challenges are and come up with a range of options and potential solutions that can be implemented usually quickly and effectively. 

But unless they take that first step towards survival and make contact, the situation might deteriorate quickly and decisively against them. 

Then the options they’ll have will have changed from what’s best to what’s the least worst. 

 

As home working became the enforced norm for millions, home shopping followed and home deliveries rocketed as a result. 

The haulage industry stepped up to keep supplies running while the warehouses worked with customary efficiency to get packages out as quickly as they were coming in.  

The postal and courier delivery services stepped up and became a nearly daily feature of our lives, accepting packages for neighbours if we weren’t expecting and receiving them ourselves.

It’s difficult to think of any goods transported in the UK that aren’t involved in road transport in some way.  

According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA) some 89% of goods are estimated to be directly moved by road and the 11% that aren’t will still require some road connection in their journeys between ports, airports and rail terminals. 

The sector is the UK’s fifth largest employer and 2.54 million workers alone keep the haulage and logistics businesses operating. 

But cruelly, just as the final government support measures are being withdrawn, transportation businesses are suffering. 

In the latest business insights bulletin from the Office of National Statistics, more transportation and shipping companies are likely to have paused trading or shut down altogether than any other sector with just 82% of them operating as normal. 

The report found that 9.1% of transport and storage firms have permanently ceased trading, while 8.5% are paused.  

The average across the wider UK economy is 3.4% of businesses have closed for good while 7% have closed temporarily.

It found that the high percentage of paused and not permanently ceased traders was partly driven by the freight transport by road industry and the unlicensed carriers industry which is experiencing a shortage of lorry drivers. 

The knock-on effect of these and other issues means the national supply chain is affected with 7% of UK businesses unable to get materials and staff in the last fortnight with others forced to switch suppliers or make alternative arrangements. 

Rod McKenzie of the RHA said that in the short term drivers’ pay is increasing to stimulate demand but: “This in turn is a cost that will need to be passed on, and given the tight profit margins of most haulage operators that means their rates to customers will have to go up.

“In turn, this may mean more of us paying higher prices for goods, services and shopping - including food prices - going forward.”


Who kept the show on the road?

According to the figures from March 2019 to February 2020 - there were 527 insolvencies involving businesses in the transportation sector. 

In the immediate 12 months afterwards from March 2020 when the first nationwide lockdowns were implemented to February 2021, there were 382 closures in the sector. 

Now, according to official statistics supplied by the Insolvency Service, there have been an additional 156 transportation sector insolvencies since March this year which takes the total number since lockdown to 538 - which is 33 a month or over eight a week pulling down their shutters for the final time. 

Ominously, 51 businesses in the sector became insolvent in June this year, the last month figures were available for, the largest monthly total recorded since March 2020.

Did bounce back loans soften the blow?

Many transportation companies took advantage of the support options available to them throughout the pandemic and recovery period. 

Many furloughed staff rather than making them redundant and others looked for government-backed borrowing sources such as bounce back loans or CBILS to help them through this unprecedented period. 

The number of bounce back loans taken out by UK transportation services was 77,920 with a total amount borrowed of £2 billion.

This is an average loan amount of £25,667 per company.  

Under the most conservative official estimates, it’s expected that 15% of the total lent to the industry would remain uncollected would be £300 million but if the default rate rose to even 40% then this figure would also grow to £1.2 billion. 


Companies with bounce back loan arrears can still close - find out how


Now the end of the line for the furlough scheme is in sight and while the temporary suspension on winding up petitions is being lifted to an extent, it will come with a £10,000 price tag until the end of March 2022 meaning some, but not all, creditors will stay their immediate legal attempts to force repayment. 

Of course this doesn’t apply to any bounce back loan arrears or other borrowing amounts which have yet to be repaid. Nor will it impact on owed VAT arrears or stop business rates being reapplied to companies with physical properties. 

Chris Horner, Insolvency Director with BusinessRescueExpert.co.uk thinks transportation businesses have a bumpy road to travel in the near future. He said: “Despite performing heroically during the pandemic and lockdown, the sector has been hit with a triple blow almost instantaneously. 

“An unlucky combination of Covid-19, Brexit red tape and personnel shortages means a lot of businesses in the sector are facing dire financial conditions just when they should be gearing up for the busy Christmas and new year period.

“Unfortunately the timing of these issues are hurting a lot of otherwise viable transportation firms. Bounce back loan and VAT arrears are building and the lenders will be taking more active steps to recover this debt.

“One thing transport and logistics businesses can do is move quickly when they need to and if they can arrange some professional advice and act on it, they might still be able to make the necessary changes and protection to get back to doing what they do best and keeping the country literally on the road to recovery.”


Any business owner or director of a transportation focused business will tell you that logistics only works when there are no blockages in the system. 

One hold-up can affect the whole network, impeding every channel until the problem is solved or removed. 

But once it’s cleared, the recovery is usually quick and normal productivity and services are functioning again swiftly.

So it is with business rescue and restructuring. Once the biggest problems are identified and solved, upward progress usually follows in short order. But only when they’re dealt with. 

We offer a free initial consultation to directors and business owners to identify what problems are holding their companies back and we’ll work with them quickly and efficiently to diagnose the most effective solutions. 

The remedies can often be put into practice immediately but they can only work if the management seizes the chance to take action before it’s finally too late to change. 

Everybody who does paid work considers themselves a professional to some extent - whether it’s building homes, serving food or writing blogs so what makes “professional services” different and special? 

The official title of the standard industrial classification (SIC) grouping is for professional, scientific and technical activities which specifies the activities of these businesses a little more clearly. 

The sector includes sole traders, partnerships and limited liability companies that work in fields such as legal, accountancy, architecture, scientific research, advertising, management consultants and even veterinary services are included.

While the nature of their businesses might vary greatly, they will all have faced similar challenges to overcome in the previous 18 months. 

So how are professional services faring in the post covid economy?

While the construction, hospitality and retail industries took a lot of oxygen and headlines about how the pandemic was affecting them - professional services businesses were also fighting their own battles to stay afloat too. 

Since the first UK-wide lockdowns and enforced trading suspensions were implemented in March 2020, 1,351 professional services businesses have become insolvent (537 in 2021 alone) - which is more than 25 every week.  

To put this in context, that’s nearly as many as the hospitality (1,378) and retail (1,355) industries without any of the associated attention of publicity.

One reason why is because the nature of the businesses are so disparate, it’s hard for the sector to speak with a unified voice. 

Takeaways and fine dining restaurants have a lot of differences and cater for different clientele and markets but their interests can be effectively lobbied for by the same influential groups such as UKHospitality.  

A marketing agency and a vets surgery will have their own representation but are unable to combine their funding, focus and forces to raise as formidable defence as the retail and hospitality sectors defenders did. 

One area where professional service providers were able to compete on an equal footing with other sectors was when it came to accessing coronavirus support measures such as bounce back loans and being able to avoid making staff redundant by furloughing them instead as part of the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS). 

When it came to bounce back loan borrowing, the professional services sector took out the third highest number of loans - nearly 160,000 - and after the retail and construction sectors, collectively borrowed the third highest total of £4.5 billion in support finance. 

This works out at an average of £28,252 for every professional services business who was approved to access a bounce back loan. 

Our research showed that under the various repayment scenarios it’s estimated that between £675 million and £2.7 billion might remain unpaid from this amount depending on the various circumstances facing the borrowers.  


You can still close your professional services company even if it has bounce back loan arrears


Now as accountants, business coaches and PR professionals begin to make up for lost time and hope to recover the ground lost during the previous 18 months, another potential problem looms on the horizon

The end of September sees a confluence of rule changes coming together to spell trouble for unprepared professional service business owners and directors: 

Employers with staff on furlough have already begun paying a greater contribution to their wages in August and September already but the entire scheme is ending on September 30th leaving businesses with potential tough decisions to make regarding staffing, rehiring and potential redundancies.

Bounce back loan and CBILS repayments will already have begun for the majority of borrowers but those that obtained a six month delay to the repayments will see it end this month meaning that these debts will now come due. Additionally any VAT arrears incurred in 2020 are also due now.

Creditors have legally been restrained from seeking redress for owed debts since March 2020 meaning that statutory demands and winding up petitions for debts incurred during and as a result of the pandemic have been unable to be granted or enforced. 
This ends on September 30th as does the suspension on termination clauses, which guarantee supplies to businesses and stop suppliers from asking for additional security or extra payments from businesses that enter administration or other restructuring procedures. 


Chris Horner, Insolvency Director with BusinessRescueExpert.co.uk thinks that professional service businesses such as marketing firms and architectural practices have a significant advantage that other sectors lack. 

He said: “The entrepreneurial nature of the sector - whether it’s a design studio or established partnership - means that these businesses tend to be more agile than companies in other industries. 

“This means that they can make decisions quicker and more importantly implement them to take advantage of changing circumstances that could affect them significantly. 

“The various changes coming in at the end of the month will have serious repercussions for a lot of companies that don’t realise what’s about to happen or are unable to get impartial and professional advice to make the necessary choices and changes required. 

“It’s the latter that will be best able to adapt to a potentially unfavourable outlook and protect their employees’ livelihoods as well as themselves.  


One of the sad ironies that most professional service businesses understand is that when times get tough for their clients, they tend to be seen as some of the first expenditure that should be cut while they tighten their belts. 

This often proves counterproductive because it’s the expertise and knowledge that they were hired for that would give the client a significant edge over competitors who would also look to cut back and grant them a competitive advantage at the very moment it’s most needed. 

Every business in the professional services sector will have stories about clients acting in haste and repenting at leisure - so they should be able to take their own advice and act quickly and decisively when the circumstances demand action. 

A business with bounce back loan and VAT arrears, CBILS or other borrowing might be able to sustain them today but this situation will change in less than four weeks. 

That’s why we offer a free, initial consultation to any business owner or director who wants advice on how they can best protect their business.

We will listen and learn what challenges they’re facing and be able to provide options they can deploy, some immediately, that will either buy them valuable time to act or allow them to efficiently and properly begin to close an unviable business - even one with bounce back loans or other unmanageable debts.  

 

The report found that although essential, the government’s overall response to the pandemic had exposed the taxpayer to significant financial risk for the foreseeable future and that while departments faced difficulties in responding quickly to the pandemic, these risks did not always achieve good value for money. 

The committee singled out the bounce back loan scheme as one of the programmes with a high level of risk reporting an estimated £26 billion of credit and fraud losses uncovered so far. 

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “With eye-watering sums of money spent on Covid-19 measures so far the government needs to be clear, now, how this will be managed going forward, and over what period. 

“The ongoing risk to the taxpayer will run for 20 years on things like recovery loans, let alone the other new risks that departments across government must quickly learn to manage.

“If coronavirus is with us for a long time, the financial hangover could leave future generations with a big headache.”

Among the main conclusions and recommendations in the report are:

The report also highlighted the work of the National Audit Office’s (NAO) Covid-19 cost tracker which tracked expenditure and costs across the whole of government and pulled them together in one place. 

The NAO are working on a follow-up to their October 2020 report specifically into the bounce back loan scheme.

It is scheduled to be published in the winter of 2021 and will update their findings on the overall amount of bounce back loan arrears that have been repaid to date and how much remains outstanding. 

We’ve been reporting on bounce back loan arrears and repayment scenarios since April including regional and industry differences so know that whatever number they come up with, it’s going to be big and focus will then shift from data collation to debt recovery.


Businesses with bounce back loan arrears are being stopped from closing down


HMRC and the Insolvency Service are going to be very busy for the rest of 2021. 

They are already using their existing powers to close down businesses and sole traders who falsely obtained bounce back loans and are turning their attention to companies who took them out legitimately but have built up arrears. 

A recent FOI inquiry from BusinessRescueExpert.co.uk revealed that they are being helped by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) who are objecting to companies with bounce back loans from being struck off the Companies House register. 

And the final piece of the enforcement jigsaw is still to come with the introduction of The Ratings (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill which is proceeding through parliament at the moment and expected to become law before the end of the year. 

Amongst the new powers it will grant The Insolvency Service retrospective powers to investigate the directors of companies that have been struck off to examine the circumstances of the dissolution.  

Because the powers are retrospective, they can go back two or three years after the fact and are not limited to bounce back loans but other debts too. 

Any director targeted under the new law could reasonably expect sanctions including fines, disqualification of up to 15 years and potentially being made personally liable for repaying any illegally obtained debts and costs incurred. 

With the remaining government support measures being withdrawn at the end of September and creditors actions such as statutory demands and winding up petitions being allowed to be issued once again, businesses with outstanding bounce back loans and other debts including VAT arrears or unpaid rent or business rates will be understandably worried. 

Instead of wondering when and where the first creditors’ blow will land, directors and business owners can use this time to draw up their own counter strategies starting with some professional insolvency advice

During a free initial consultation, we will better understand the situation facing a business and give our honest appraisal of the options available, depending on what they would like to do. 

Some businesses might want or be able to restructure their debts and eventually trade their way back to profitability with creditors help and forbearance through a company voluntary arrangement (CVA)

An alternative option might be a company voluntary liquidation (CVL)  if there is no realistic path to recovery.  

This will allow the orderly closure of a business even if it has bounce back loan debt and other outstanding arrears that it can’t reasonably clear. 

There are choices and chances that can be taken - but only if the directors or business owners act in time to access them and work with us to act on them. 

July stats 2021

This is because they’re more susceptible to immediate fluctuations rather than gradual trends. 

The number of company insolvencies declining across the UK in July after rising for two consecutive months was still a slight surprise in the latest official monthly company insolvency statistics released by The Insolvency Service

For England and Wales, the total number of corporate insolvencies for last month was 1,094 - this was down 112 (9.3%) from the 1,207 recorded in June’s total but still 13.4% higher than the 741 recorded in July 2020. 

While both totals are still below the 1,442 recorded in July 2019, a 24% reduction for 2021, it is the third consecutive month that year-on-year figures are higher than 12 months ago - indicating a broader recovery towards pre-pandemic levels.

112 cases is a relatively small number and combined with the residual effect of the summer holiday season and the general upward trend of cases we should expect this to begin to rise by October at the latest.

The reduction in monthly cases is the first since April and with creditor actions such as statutory demands and winding up petitions due to be reintroduced at the end of September along with the widely expected withdrawal of the furlough scheme and other support measures, it’s logical to speculate that insolvency rates will be a lot higher by the end of the year.

Of the 1,094 company insolvencies recorded in July in England and Wales there were 1,007 creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs); 41 compulsory liquidations; 40 administrations and 6 company voluntary arrangements (CVAs). Once again, there were no receivership appointments in July. 

Compulsory liquidations and administrations saw small rises from June - up three and one respectively, while there were 109 fewer CVLs and eight fewer CVAs. 

The only category that isn’t lower than its 2019 equivalent are CVLs which are at the same level. 

Additionally:- 

There were 72 company insolvencies in Scotland last month comprising 14 compulsory liquidations; 54 CVLs and four administrations. Overall these figures were 36% higher than a year ago but 26% lower than in 2019. 

Historically, compulsory liquidations have been the most common kind of insolvency registered in Scotland but since April 2020 there have been twice as many CVLs as compulsory liquidations. This has been the situation for 14 out of the preceding 15 months.

There were also 14 company insolvencies registered in Northern Ireland - 40% higher than in July 2020 but 33% lower than for July 2019. 

This was made up of one compulsory liquidation, nine CVLs and an administration. 

The overall total of UK company insolvencies for July 2021 is 1,180, an overall decrease of 115 from last month’s collective total. 


“It will take longer for the worst hit sectors to recover from the pandemic”

Colin Haig, President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body said: “The month on month fall in corporate insolvencies was as a result of a drop in compulsory liquidations, CVLs and CVAs. 

“However, this is the third consecutive month in which year-on-year corporate insolvency levels have risen, which reflects the effect the pandemic has had on the business community. 

“The 70.4% increase in CVLs this month compared to July 2020 suggests an increasing number of directors have decided to close their business after spending a year trying to survive the pandemic. 

“Although government support has continued to provide a lifeline for many businesses which would otherwise have struggled in an economic climate like this, this July was still a challenging month. 

“The delay in lifting the final restrictions will have hit trading, footfall and spending, and a huge number of firms have spent 15 months trading in conditions that are wildly different to normal. 

“With the opening up of the economy, consumer confidence at pre-pandemic levels, and spending levels higher than they were in 2019 the future does look more optimistic. Having said that, it will take longer for the worst hit sectors to recover from the pandemic. 

“SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy, but many have been badly affected by the pandemic. The restructuring community is better placed than ever to help them and other organisations with financial worries, but if directors leave it too late to ask for help, they will have fewer rescue or recovery options open to them.”


We couldn’t agree more. 

One of the main advantages of getting in touch with us and arranging a free initial consultation is the earlier a director or business owner does it, the more options they will have available for their company.

Depending on their goals and ambitions for the business, either restructuring the business and its debts are appropriate or if there is no viable way forward in the immediate future then there are several efficient ways to close the business down instead.

No matter what direction you want to go in, there will be an insolvency procedure to achieve it but only if you get in touch. 

Creditors will be allowed to begin recovery actions in only a few weeks so you can be sure they will be keen to exercise their options as soon as they can. 

Make sure you use this time to exercise yours. 


But in many ways, despite lockdowns being lifted and restrictions easing across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, this is exactly what’s happened. 

Since the Covid-19 lockdowns began the Insolvency Service has been providing monthly figures on the number of businesses that have undergone an insolvency procedure such as administration, company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) or liquidations

For retailers the figures are sobering. 

Since May 2019, 1,316 retailers have entered insolvency. This is a rate of 110 a month or more than four a week. 

This is with the restrictions on creditors’ recovery actions such as statutory demands and winding up petitions that are due to be lifted at the end of September at the same time that all other Covid-19 support ends including the furlough scheme


Why a CVA could be retails best defence against the multiple threats it faces


Earlier this year we investigated how much bounce back loan borrowing had been done by businesses in each industrial sector and found that retail businesses had collectively borrowed the most. 

216,718 loans were granted to retailers while the scheme was still running for a combined total of £7.7 billion which is an average of £35,530 per retail borrower. 

This is the equivalent of building a new Wembley Stadium and still having £1.6 billion in change left over. 

We also looked at the estimated rate of defaults and even under the best case scenarios we modeled - 15% of loans remaining unpaid - this would still be £1.16 billion missing from the public purse. 

Against this backdrop, sales are beginning to rise with annual sales growth for July for the sector standing at 6.4% although this is steady rather than spectacular as the three-month average was 14.7%.

Any positive news in the sector should be cheered at the moment as it finds itself fighting to reestablish itself on many different fronts. 


Another worrying statistic to illustrate this came this week with new research published by the British Retail Consortium and the Local Data Company (LDC). 

It shows that more than one in seven shops are now vacant across the country - including high streets, retail parks and in shopping centres - the highest levels since 2015 and the highest ever recorded by the LDC. 

Indoor shopping malls now have a vacancy rate of 20% too, underlining how the enforced change in shopping habits over the past 18 months along with high profile brands such as Debenhams and the Arcadia Group which owned Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins, went into insolvency and liquidation after selling these brands to new operators where they became online-only. 

Regionally, the North East of England had the highest overall proportion of empty shops at just over a fifth and saw the biggest increase in vacancies during the last 12 months. 

Greater London proved the most resilient with a rate of 10%.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium said: “The retail vacancy rate is continuing to rise. 

“Many shops and local communities have been battered by the pandemic, with many high streets in need of further investment. Unfortunately, the current broken business rates system continues to hold back retailers, hindering vital investment into retail innovation and the blended physical-digital offering. 

“The Government must ensure the upcoming business rates review permanently reduces the cost burden to sustainable levels. Retailers want to play their part in building back a better future for local communities, and the government must give them tools to do so.

“The vacancy rate could rise further now the Covid-19 business rates holiday has come to an end. The longer the current system persists, the more job losses and vacant shops we will see. 

“July continued to see strong sales, although growth has started to slow. 

“The lifting of restrictions did not bring the anticipated in-store boost, with the wet weather leaving consumers reluctant to visit shopping destinations. Online sales remained strong, and with weddings and other social events back on for the summer calendar, formalwear and beauty all began to see notable improvement, so fashion outlets in particular saw a bounce back to pre-pandemic levels. 

“As many people prepare to return to the workplace, purchase of home office equipment began to fall after months of high sales, meanwhile other homeware, such as furniture and household appliances continued to do well.”

The government is planning to publish a review of business rates in the Autumn after retailers were given a holiday from the tax throughout the pandemic. This tax break began to unwind last month and will end for all businesses in March 2022. 

Lucy Stainton, Commercial Director for the Local Data Company added: “After an initial flurry of CVAs and closures due to consumer behaviour shifts and cost-cutting exercises, retailers are now starting to dust themselves off with cautious optimism, keeping an eye on the rapidly changing infection rate and the pace at which vaccinations are taking place; two measures that could seriously derail the recovery efforts should they not go in the right direction.”


Retailers expecting a fantastic sales surge will have been disappointed this summer season.  

Several will have invested a lot into their businesses ahead of an expected grand reopening and if they metaphorically put their foot on the gas - they’ve got a whimper instead of a roar.

Sadly for them and every other firm struggling with their bottom lines right now - bills and debts continue to arrive even if the expected sales haven’t. 

With the last of the Covid-19 support measures being withdrawn in the next few weeks and creditor actions being reinstated at the same time, it could be a sharp and uncomfortable Autumn for a lot of otherwise profitable businesses. 

Because time is running out, we’ll get straight to the point - get in touch with us today.

We won’t waste your time with fancy theories or upselling you services you don’t need. We’ll use your free initial consultation to find out precisely what you’re up against, then come up with some timely and effective solutions you can start to put into practice straight away. 

Things are going to get more uncomfortable for a lot of retailers before the year is out so by using the time you have now to arrange a restructuring and rescue strategy or other methods depending on your goals, you can spend it doing more important things - making more money.   

So while business continues whether you’re on holiday or not, it’s a good time to look back on what’s happened to businesses in the second quarter of the year - that covers data from April 1 to June 30 2021. 

The Insolvency Service have published their second quarterly bulletin of the year revealing the total number of company insolvencies reported during this period and they show another uptick in insolvency activity.

Q2 insolvency stats 2021

When you look at the story of 2021 so far it resembles a giant V - recovering the numbers lost in the previous quarter. 

The overall number of company insolvencies for England and Wales from April to June 2021 was 3,116 - 31% higher than the previous three months data and 4% higher than the same period in 2020. 

This is also the highest quarterly total since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The main driver is the increase in creditor voluntary liquidations (CVLs)

Every other company insolvency procedure - administrations, CVAs and compulsory liquidations - was lower both in the previous quarter and the same quarter of the previous year. 

Q2 2021 (dark) v Q1 2021 (light)
Q2 2020 v Q2 2021

The 3,116 recorded company insolvencies was made up of:

CVLs made up 90% of insolvency cases in England and Wales between April and June this year with administrations taking 5% of cases; compulsory liquidations reached 3% and only 1% of cases were CVAs. 

There were a total of 165 company insolvencies in Scotland in Q2 2020, Up 91 or 32% higher than a year ago. This was made up of:

In Northern Ireland there were 23 company insolvencies, Up 15 or 35% higher than Q2 2020. This was comprised of:

The total company insolvencies for the UK for Q2 were 3,304 - an increase of 814 from the first three months of the year.

The Insolvency Service reiterates that the historic low levels of company insolvencies compared to pre-pandemic numbers are due to several factors - some temporary while others might be more influential in the medium to longer terms. 

Along with the unprecedented and historic level of government back financial support measures such as the bounce back loan scheme, suspensions of creditor recovery actions such as winding up petitions and a backlog of cases working through a court system that is still working someway below capacity have all had an influence. 

Additionally, the introduction of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 brought in new legal powers including a statutory insolvency moratorium period and court sanctioned restructuring plans. 

Since the introduction of the act on 26 June 2020, there have been five companies obtaining a moratorium and a further nine that had their restructuring plans approved and implemented by the courts. These measures are noted by the Insolvency Service but are not included within the statistics as they are not classed as formal insolvency processes. 


Liquidation Rates
q2 2021 liquidation rates

The liquidation rates figures (a number per 10,000 active companies) tends to give us a clearer picture of the broader trends at work as they indicate the probability of a company entering liquidation rather than the number that actually have. 

They are immune to one-off fluctuations or other factors and are more comparable over longer time periods than absolute figures. They indicate underlying trends affecting businesses so we can have a broader view of the direction of insolvency momentum. 

The figure is calculated based on the data from a 4-quarter rolling rate per 10,000 active companies so the rates for Q2 2021 used data covering the periods from Q3 2020 to and including Q2 2021. 

The liquidation rate for this period is 25.9 per 10,000 companies or 1 in 386 companies being liquidated in the 12 months ending on June 30 2021. 

This figure is slightly higher than the previous quarter (25.3 per 10,000 or 1 in 396 businesses) but lower than the corresponding figure from Q2 2020 (36.9 per 10,000 or 1 in 271).


If HMRC are getting serious about your bounce back loan debt - what can you do next?


Insolvencies by industrial sector
q2 insolvency by industry

Compared to the same time period a year ago, every industrial sector has seen a decline in insolvency rates

The three industries that saw the highest number of insolvencies were:

The construction industry continues to have a larger number of insolvencies than any other sector but the total number in the past 12 months is 36% lower than the previous period. 
 
Colin Haig, President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body said: “The increase in corporate insolvencies - to the highest total in 18 months - has been driven by a rise in creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs) which have increased to pre-pandemic levels. 

“It’s hard to say what’s driving this increase in CVLs but it could be that directors of a number of companies have decided they can no longer go on trading as a result of the pandemic, and are opting to close down their businesses by using the CVL process, before the situation deteriorates further.

“What is clear is that the figures show the toll the challenges of the last three months - and the twelve before them - have taken on the business community. 

“While many business owners were hoping the lifting of the lockdown would help them, they reopened amid low consumer confidence, a time when people were being encouraged to stay local, and when the economy was still a long way from recovering from the start of the pandemic. 

“The formal end of lockdown may have improved their situation but it wasn’t the boost many businesses had hoped for. 

“However, the government’s support measures have remained in place over this period and are likely the reason why today’s increase isn’t as severe as it could have been. 

“This support has been a lifeline for many businesses, but with the end of furlough in sight, directors now need to take the time to plan for how they’ll manage when this initiative ends.”


Is this summer your last chance to save your business?


The key takeaway from these latest statistics is that despite government support still being largely in place through the coronavirus job retention scheme and statutory demands,  winding up petitions and other enforcement measures remaining suspended, company insolvencies have increased relatively sharply. 

Bounce back loan repayments are coming due, business rates liability is due to resume and as the remaining support measures are finally wound up and creditors are within sight of being able to take unrestricted action once more, it’s reasonable to assume that by the end of the year if not Q3, these figures will be higher still.

So what can an informed and responsible business owner or company director do - right now - to help their company through the turbulent next few weeks and months?

How about talking? 

A problem shared might not be halved but getting in touch with us to arrange a free initial consultation chat will feel like a weight is lifted. 

Once we get a better understanding of your unique circumstances, we’ll be able to advise you on what strategic and tactical steps you can take in the short and medium terms to bolster your business. 

As the figures are beginning to show, not every company will be able to navigate the storm ahead but there are other options available that we can discuss that could lead to an alternative and ultimately better outcome than trying to rescue an unviable enterprise. 

By the time Q3 ends on September 30, many business owners will wish they had extra time available to tackle their most pressing issues. 

Make sure you use yours now. 

Business Rescue Expert is part of Robson Scott Associates Limited, a limited company registered in England and Wales No. 05331812, a leading independent insolvency practice, specialising in business rescue advice. The company holds professional indemnity insurance and complies with the EU Services Directive. Christopher Horner (IP no 16150) is licenced by the Insolvency Practitioners Association

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