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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 January 2007, 10:28 GMT
Insolvency risk from festive debt
Personal insolvency graph
Overspending during the festive period will force 10,000 people to declare themselves insolvent in the next few months, say accountants Grant Thornton.

The firm predicts that before April, there will be 30,000 personal insolvencies in the UK.

It blames the increasing trend on greater borrowing and spending, higher interest rates and big utility bills.

The firm says 2006 will have seen more than 100,000 personal insolvencies. It says there will be even more in 2007.

"Last year, during the period straight after Christmas, when most bills started to hit the doormat, we witnessed the highest ever amount of people going into personal insolvency," said Mike Gerrard of Grant Thornton.

"We regularly see people, especially over Christmas and with the start of the sales, add to their problems in quite a substantial way.

"This year, things could be even worse."

IVAs

Last year, there was a 55% rise in the number of people being forced by the burden of their debts to declare themselves insolvent.

HOW TO GO BUST
Bankruptcy: the traditional way of escaping overwhelming debt. Ends after one year, but you are likely to lose all your assets including your house to pay something to the creditors
IVA: A deal between you and your creditors, overseen by an insolvency practitioner. Less stigma, less chance of losing your home, but involves paying some of your debts in one go or over a number of years

In the first nine months of the year alone, this happened to 75,000 people in England and Wales.

The rise was largely due to a big increase in the number of people entering a process called an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA), which is a formal alternative to bankruptcy.

The use of this procedure has apparently been encouraged by widespread advertising from specialist insolvency and debt advisory firms.

In turn, this has been blamed by the High Street banks for forcing them to write off several billion pounds in loans and credit card debts during the past year.

Some experts have predicted that 2007 will see IVAs become even more commonplace than bankruptcy.

Sarah Miller, a spokeswoman at Citizens Advice, said: "We do see evidence of a Christmas debt hangover, and this month we expect to exceed the 140,000 debt problems that Citizens Advice bureaux dealt with in January 2006."


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