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Insolvency hits seven people every day in Northern Ireland

By Claire McNeilly

Published 16/11/2015

John Gordon, of Napier and Sons
John Gordon, of Napier and Sons

There were almost seven insolvencies - and two bankruptcies - a day in Northern Ireland between July and September this year, it can be revealed today.

And almost a third of all individual insolvencies ended in bankruptcy in the third quarter of 2015.

The new figures, obtained by the Belfast Telegraph, actually show a decrease in the number of people and businesses going to the wall from the worst days of the recession, but shine a light on the sluggish rate of Northern Ireland's economic recovery.

More worryingly, a leading personal insolvency expert has said the overall picture is a lot gloomier than the figures paint.

John Gordon, of Napier and Sons, said: "The number of bankruptcies is down but I don't believe that's a true reflection of what is going on."

According to the Insolvency Service, there were 611 individual insolvencies in Northern Ireland between July and September this year - down 37.3% on the same quarter in 2014.

Of the total number of insolvencies, 199 ended in bankruptcy over the same period, representing a year-on-year fall of 34.3%.

There were also 301 individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), indicating a 45.2% fall on last year, and 111 Debt Relief Orders (DROs), down 9.8% on 2014 figures.

Insolvency is a generic term applying to both people and businesses. Bankruptcy relates to an individual, while liquidation/administration/winding up all apply to a company.

Mr Gordon said one reason for bankruptcy cases being down is that court lists have been capped. "There are so many cases going through it was really difficult to cope, so there's only a certain amount of cases going into the list every single day," he said.

According to the figures, there were 86 company insolvencies between July and September - almost one a day.

Of those, 55 were compulsory liquidations (up 7.8% on the same period last year) and an estimated 16 were creditors' voluntary liquidations (down 33.3%).

Mr Gordon, whose company deals with more insolvency cases than any other Northern Ireland firm, said there's still a lot of bankruptcy being handled on a daily basis.

He said a lot more Northern Ireland people are insolvent than the figures suggest - and a lot more in financial difficulty.

"Small businesses are struggling badly, big headline businesses are also struggling badly; we see Michelin, Gallaher's and B&Q going to the wall. And more professional people are going bankrupt. I've accountants, lawyers, dentists, consultants and GPs being adjudicated because they've dabbled in the property market and got seriously burnt."

If you're ruled bankrupt, your debt is wiped out and any assets you have are taken, but Mr Gordon says it isn't as frightening as it sometimes sounds.

"When I first started there were about 60 bankruptcies in Northern Ireland a year, now there are 2,000.

"The relief is palpable, especially for people who have spent months, sometimes years, of stress worrying about debt.

"And in most cases you're bankrupt for just 12 months and can start again."


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