The latest corporate insolvency data has been issued by The Insolvency Service for November and the headline is not just another increase in the total numbers of businesses going into insolvency but the scale.
November’s official figures show another increase in England and Wales to 2,466 which is a 7% increase on last month’s total of 2,315 and takes 2023’s annual total to the highest seen since 2009.
The total is up 22% from November 2022 and as well as being the third highest monthly total recorded this year it’s also the second consecutive month of increasing insolvency totals.
The figure is higher than the Covid affected totals from November 2020 and 2021 but is also 39% higher than the last pre-Covid comparison month of November 2019 which saw 1,505 insolvencies.
The most frequent type of business insolvencies in November were creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs) with 1,962.
This was an increase of 4% from October but a 23% rise from November 2022. CVLs made up 80% of all corporate insolvencies last month, which is a ratio reduction of 2%.
There were 359 compulsory liquidations in November which was an increase of 103 (140%) and a 22% rise from the same month a year ago. This is the highest monthly figure for compulsory liquidations seen since 2019 and is the sixth consecutive month that has seen over 200 cases and a higher total than the corresponding month a year ago.
The reason for this growth is that creditors, led by HMRC, are becoming more aggressive and active in their attempts to recover outstanding debts by using winding up petitions and statutory demands to enforce payment.
There were 133 administrations in November which was a reduction of 13 from October’s total and an annual decrease of 1% from last November.
Administration conveys several advantages to directors and business owners including giving them some “breathing space” from creditors’ actions and legal efforts allowing them more time to restructure their finances and debts if at all possible.
There were 12 company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) last month. This is down from 23 the previous month but is 20% higher than the figure recorded in November 2022.
There were no receivership appointments recorded last month nor any additional insolvency moratoriums recorded by Companies House since June 2020 from the 47 up to last month nor any additional business restructuring plans approved by a court from the 22 recorded since June 2020.
In Scotland last month there were a total of 109 company insolvencies recorded.
This was an increase on the total of 99 recorded in October but 8% reduction on the total from November 2022.
This comprised 74 CVLs (up from 58 in October); 30 compulsory liquidations (down from 35) and five administrations (up one). There were no CVAs (down two) or receiverships recorded.
Scotland has always historically had higher numbers of compulsory liquidations than any other kind but this was overtaken by CVLs at the beginning of 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic. 2023 has seen CVL numbers approximately one and a half times higher than the corresponding number of compulsory liquidations.
There were 26 company insolvencies recorded in Northern Ireland in November, down one from the 27 recorded last month but still 30% higher than the corresponding monthly total from a year ago.
This was made up of six CVLs (down six from October); 13 compulsory liquidations (down one); five administrations (up four) and two CVAs (no change). There were no receivership appointments in the province.
The total number of company insolvencies for the whole of the UK in November 2023 is 2,601 – an increase of 160 from last month’s total.
Nicky Fisher, President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body said:
“The monthly and year-on-year rise in corporate insolvency levels is driven by an increase in creditors voluntary liquidations and compulsory liquidations, as more directors choose to close down their businesses while that choice is still theirs and more creditors are pursuing debts they are owed as they attempt to balance their own books.
“But the figures published today also take 2023’s corporate insolvency figures to the highest annual total since 2009.
“The fact that corporate insolvency numbers have reached a 14-year-high is partly because of the Covid hangover, which was a result of insolvency numbers being suppressed by government support measures, but also as a result of a relay of economic issues that have taken their toll on businesses.
“Since the spring of 2020, firms have had to contend with the pandemic, the end of government support measures, rising inflation, the cost of living crisis and supply chain issues – with no time to draw breath or recover in between them.
“The past year has been especially tough. Costs have increased, people have been reluctant to spend money as they worry about paying for the basics, and high interest rates have made paying debts or securing funding incredibly difficult.
“This point of the year is a critical time for many businesses, and if it doesn’t deliver the rise in revenues many are hoping for, we could see insolvency numbers increase further next month.
“Given the timing and climate, it’s vital that directors and managers are alert to signs their business could be financially distressed and seek advice as soon as they present themselves.
“It’s a very hard conversation to have, but speaking up when your worries are new will give you more options for improving your situation and more time to make a decision about how you move forward.”
Every business is different but rising insolvency figures tell a story of a bumpy economy for everybody – no matter what sector or industry you work in.
With business rates due to rise in April, inflation still relatively high and interest rates remaining at their highest levels for 14 years too, there is not much sign of things settling down in the short term either.
This is why there’s never been a better time to book a free initial consultation with one of our expert advisors.
They will work with you to create a strategy to help strengthen or restructure the business so it can be in the best possible shape to meet 2024 head on.