Insolvencies fall to four-year low
Personal insolvencies in England and Wales dropped last year to their lowest level since 2008, official figures have shown.
There were 109,477 individual insolvencies during 2012, a 9% year-on-year fall, according to statistics from the Insolvency Service.
The latest figures also showed insolvencies dropped back in the last three months of 2012 to 25,302, 10% down on the previous quarter.
Within these figures, there were 6,919 bankruptcy orders in the last three months of 2012, the lowest number seen in any quarter since 2003. Bankruptcy numbers were 9% lower than in the previous quarter and have now been at lower levels than debt relief orders (DROs) for six months.
Analysts said the official figures fail to show the extent of people struggling and warned that many people will be tipped over the edge this year amid pressures such as soaring energy bills and rents.
Joanna Elson, chief executive of charity the Money Advice Trust (MAT), said the lower bankruptcy figures are not necessarily a good sign as many people simply cannot afford to go bankrupt.
She said: "Finding the requisite £700 to petition for bankruptcy simply isn't feasible, and people are instead left to drift in a financial black hole where they can't afford to repay their debts, can't afford bankruptcy, and have no other way out."
The latest figures also showed the number of DROs fell by 5% on the previous quarter, to 7,397 in the last three months of 2012. DROs are often dubbed "bankruptcy light" and are aimed at people with lower levels of debt but no realistic prospect of paying it off.
Individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) fell by 13% quarter on quarter. IVAs are agreements between people and their creditors that they should pay their debts to a specialist, who then shares the money out between creditors. There were 10,986 IVAs in the last quarter of 2012, the lowest number in almost two years.
Charles Turner, head of personal insolvency at restructuring firm FRP Advisory, said there is "no room for complacency" and pointed to some recent lending figures which have suggested that households dipped further into borrowing over Christmas in order to stretch their finances.