The latest insolvency figures were recently released for England and Wales showing personal insolvency numbers had decreased, but this doesn’t necessarily mean good news.
Hooray! Personal insolvency figures are down… So say the latest figures from the Insolvency Service. Good news all round apparently. Except it isn’t: These figures clearly show two things which, in the celebrations, many commentators seem to have missed.
The first is… “It’s the economy stupid”: Things are bad out there… and the banks aren’t making loans – so fewer people aren’t getting into debt.
Plot on a chart (see below) the total number of insolvencies in England and Wales against the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance in the UK (sorry – I know it’s apples and pears, but it’s all I could find) and you can clearly see that the more people looking for work, the fewer are going bust.
Since 2009, the more people have been on the dole, the fewer have needed to go bankrupt, go into an IVA or seek a debt relief order.
Before 2009 the curves march in step – my conclusion is that, when the good times roll, that’s when we’ll see unsustainable debt on the rise.
My second conclusion – That the numbers of consumers opting for personal insolvency may be going down. But, by nowhere near as many as they should be. The fact is that since 2001, the number of people opting to go bust has increased by more than four and a half times – from 29,775 to 135,045. A 15.5% decrease in the last year is piffling, especially as we can expect sharp rises a year or 18 months after the banks start lending again.
Personal debt has never been given the priority it deserves. Previous government policy seemed to centre around educating children and young adults (future consumers) in how to avoid debt. That’s nowhere near enough. We need to start looking at this country’s debt resolution culture and make sure we have the procedures we need – ready for when the economy starts to grow again and banks are no longer afraid to lend.