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Last Updated: Friday, 4 August 2006, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Insolvencies show sharp increase
Insolvency graph
A record 26,000 people became insolvent in England and Wales during the second quarter of 2006 - 66% more than in the same period last year.

Analysts KPMG have predicted the number of personal insolvencies this year will exceed 100,000, almost a threefold increase on the 2003 figure.

Experts have blamed greater personal debt for the rise in insolvencies.

This week, all the major banks increased their provisions to cover debts that will not be repaid.

Nearly two-thirds of people declared themselves bankrupt.

The remaining people took out Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) - an alternative to bankruptcy that allows debtors to come to an agreement with their creditors.

Rate rise

Pressure could mount further as consumers face higher energy bills and rising interest rates
Mark Sands, KPMG

Debt charity the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) told BBC News that it had seen a 40% year-on-year rise in the number of people asking it for help.

More consumers may struggle to cope with their debts, following the Bank of England's decision on Thursday to raise UK interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point to 4.75%.

""Pressure could mount further as consumers face higher energy bills and rising interest rates and we predict a record number of personal insolvencies of 100,000 in 2006," said Mark Sands, director of personal insolvency at KPMG.

"Someone is entering formal insolvency every minute of the working day," he added.

Easier option?

Some debt experts have suggested that going bankrupt is an easier option because of a change in the law in 2004.

I knew I had to pay my creditors back but the way it was managed was very bad indeed

Under the Enterprise Act, bankrupts can now find themselves discharged after just one year, down from three.

In addition, under the reforms, the homes of bankrupts were given better protection from being seized by creditors.

However, the government's Insolvency Service vehemently denies that bankruptcy is a soft option.

Company insolvencies

There was a silver lining in the insolvency figures, as far as the wider UK business is concerned.

The number of companies going into liquidation fell slightly during the first quarter of 2006.

In total, 3,265 firms went to the wall, representing a decrease of 3.3% on the same period last year.

This figure supports the latest economic statistics that the UK economy is growing steadily.

"The fall in corporate insolvencies, particularly liquidations which tend to apply to smaller businesses, is an encouraging sign and shows the current buoyancy of the economy," Mike Jervis, partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers said.


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