Government extends business support measures.

The Government have announced two further extensions of provisions under the Corporate Insolvency & Governance Act 2020.


Commercial landlords

The ability to evict or take goods in lieu of rental arrears has been further suspended until 25 March 2022.  The Government have produced a guide for landlords, which includes financial assistance.  The link is:

While this provision can be financially damaging to landlords, tenants also need to understand they must continue to pay rent (whether that is the contractual sum or a reduced amount under an agreement with their landlord) otherwise they are simply accruing a debt that could become unmanageable, while simultaneously increasing the landlord’s frustration, meaning they show less understanding once these provisions are lifted.

Further to the above, a director may have given a personal guarantee or, in non-payment of the rentals, could be exposing themselves to potential malpractice action (which carries personal liability) should their company ultimately fall into liquidation.

Debt enforcement

The restrictions on statutory demands and winding up petitions are being extended for a further three months until 30 September 2021.  The Government claim this is, “To protect companies from creditor enforcement action where their debts relate to the pandemic.”

It is, perhaps, interesting the announcement appears to be silent on extending the moratorium over wrongful trading, although directors, in particular, should not hold the misconception suspending wrongful trading provisions protects them if they continue trading beyond a point where creditors suffer.

While being of the view extending the above provisions further is kicking the can down the road, it is understandable.  The COVID road map has been pushed back until 19 July and with furlough to end in the autumn companies will need to re-adjust their overhead expenditure while also getting their business back on track after the adverse impact of lockdown.  Holding off aggressive creditor action to the end of September provides some breathing space for companies to recover before having to deal with aged debt.  Holding off landlords even further allows additional time for business owners to assess the viability of continued trading.

Should you have an insolvency-related issue then please contact me at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on (01604) 212150 (Northampton office) or (01234) 834886 (Bedford office). Alternatively, you may send an email to or access our website at

How are you paid?

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As the heading asks, how are you paid?  Is it a fixed salary, flexible hourly rate or on target earnings, or a combination of these?

In just over 32 years working in the insolvency profession I have been confronted with a wide variety of challenges.  However, the single most challenging task is when informing people, they are being made redundant.  It is my own fear, and I will never get used to being that messenger, even if those unfortunate employees being made redundant is for the greater good of saving a business.

When a company enters into a formal insolvency procedure, in most cases employees are entitled to make a claim for their entitlements against the Redundancy Payments Service (“RPS”).  The one regular surprise (it would appear) is that employee claimants includes directors provided they are able to demonstrate they were also employees at the time.

Generally speaking, the entitlements are wage arrears, accrued/unpaid holiday, redundancy and payment in lieu of notice.  In most cases, these claims are assessed quite easily.  You enter your fixed pay details and what you are owed on the online application.  However, what if you are on flexible hours or your income fluctuates due to commission earnings, so you are unable to insert a definitive earning figure?  This has been an issue for as long as I can remember, and “Best guess” tended to be the answer.  A recent announcement has been made by RPS that should partially address this issue.

With effect from 12 April 2021 employees with variable pay are being asked to calculate their entitlements based upon their 52-week average rate of pay.  I say, “Partially” because no computer system can fully address the large divergence in vocations and some employees could actually lose out.  For example, if you were paid commissions based upon holiday bookings, it is fair to assume earnings have been lower than normal over the past 52 weeks due to the pandemic restrictions.  Conversely, an estate agent may have seen an increase in their earnings due to the suspension of stamp duty enhancing property sales.  The question is, will RPS make an exceptional allowance for the impact of COVID?  I would suggest unlikely.

Should predictions be correct once the Government support programmes end, corporate insolvencies will increase and no doubt, the media will make plenty of noise over the scale of redundancies inherit with corporate failure and restructuring.  This prediction will place RPS under considerable pressure and payment target times will be challenged as a result, exposing those made redundant to a difficult time while they await entitlements.

Should you have an insolvency-related issue then please contact me at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on (01604) 212150 (Northampton office) or (01234) 834886 (Bedford office). Alternatively, you may send an email to or access our website at

Are we heading for an economic cliff?

How prepared are you for when the COVID-related financial support and other interim measures fall away? 

With the impact of COVID the Government laid down, what was to become the Corporate Insolvency & Governance Act 2020 (“CIGA”) which became law in June 2020 and had retrospective effect to March 2020.  CIGA was seen as a balancing act between the detrimental impact the severe restrictions would have for trading on one hand against shielding business from depleted cash flow on the other.

In January the House of Lords debated over the continued restrictions on creditor enforcement imposed by CIGA.  These restrictions were intended to expire on 30 September but were extended to 31 December and subsequently 31 March 2021.  In general, the restrictions prevented the service of statutory demands/winding up petitions, landlord enforcement and suspended wrongful trading provisions.  As a result of these restrictions, the latest data suggests an unprecedented level of debt has accrued, including over £4.5 billion in rent arrears.

Furthermore, there is an estimated £70 billion of Government-backed lending, together with deferred tax liabilities, which is most likely going to make HM Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”) a major creditor in most insolvencies, resulting in them having significant influence on the destiny of businesses.  This influence is made all the greater following the upgrading of HMRC to secondary preferential status when formal insolvency is required.

So, what is the good news?

Well, the Government have announced an easing of bounce back loan repayments in an effort to ease cash flow demands.  In addition, recognising the resulting position of HMRC and the detrimental effect COVID has caused generally, the House of Lords have stressed HMRC need to be co-operative and engaging with a supportive approach on proposed COVID-affected corporate restructuring.  Clearly, time will tell on this recommendation and I would say this commercial understanding needs to be wider by including landlords and credit controllers who are all seeking recoveries.

I asked in the title whether we are heading towards an economic cliff.  Personally, I would suggest “Normal” (whatever that is) will not occur over night.  So, rather than a cliff as COVID restrictions ease off, maybe the economy will experience a gradual slope.

Whatever the outcome businesses need to be pro-active.  Review your cash flow and look at ways of reducing overheads, particularly while your turnover gradually starts to return to pre-COVID levels.  You should engage with your creditors and for those who are owed money, a commercial understanding is going to be the order of the day.  If all fails, the advice has to be to seek early advice.  It is no coincidence those who do seek early advice find they have more options available then those who leave it until the last minute.  As a Scout will say, “Be prepared.”

Should you have an insolvency-related issue then please contact me at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on (01604) 212150 (Northampton office) or (01234) 834886 (Bedford office). Alternatively, you may send an email to or access our website at

Recession or is it something else?


What is the outlook for the UK economy post lockdown?  That is a question I have been asked many times, while others tell me how busy my profession will be.

The truth is, nobody can accurately predict what will happen.  Personally, I have heard views from, “It is going to be a tough time, but we will get through it,” to others predicting 800,000 – 1 million businesses will fail over the next 12-18 months.

Before we look forward, let us look back.  I have worked through two major recessions, being 1990 and 2008.  The first of these saw UK officially enter recession at the end of the 4th quarter of 1990.  Corporate insolvencies were up 44% in 1990 (from 1989) with the level of failures increasing with 1991 being 60% higher than 1990.  A further increase was suffered with 1992 being 72% higher than 1991.  While numbers dropped in 1993 corporate failures still totalled 26,316 as compared to 18,720 in 1990.

You then compare that with the 2008 recession which was entered at the end of the 3rd quarter of 2008.  2007 had seen 15,774 corporate insolvencies, rising in 2008 to 21,082 (an increase of 34%). 2009 saw this figure further increase to 23,979.

What the 1990 and 2008 recessions told us is the peak of business failure may well arise a year or two after officially entering recession and levels remain high for a year or two after the peak.   However, this looming crisis is likely to be different to those past recessions.

While we may officially enter recession in the 3rd quarter, it is likely corporate failures will start to rise immediately as opposed to previous trends of corporate failures rising in the wake of a recovering economy.  The principal difficulty will be cash flow as most industries will find themselves back at pre-lockdown operational costs (including salaries as furlough ceases) but also, some will have the additional burden of servicing the bounce back and business interruption loans, as well as any deferred tax payments.  All this cost pressure will be challenging when it is anticipated “Normal” levels of turnover may not return for some time.

In saying the above, it would be remiss of me not to mention corporate insolvency numbers fell by 8.5% in the 1st quarter of 2020 (as compared to the corresponding quarter of 2019).  However, this maybe artificial as according to a well-known high court judge I spoke to recently, the working hours of the courts have been reduced with only 40% employment retained and winding up petitions have fallen by 85% principally as a result of HMRC ceasing enforcement action on standard unpaid tax matters.  Many other petitions have been adjourned under temporary COVID directives so there could be an explosion of activity once UK starts getting back to a semblance of normality.

This may all appear to come across as negative but overall the UK economy has the strength to recover and the services provided will continue to be in demand worldwide.  The key messages readers should take from this are:

  1. Continue to monitor your cash flow without a “Salesman” eye. Be critical and challenge the numbers.
  2. Review your overhead structure to see where reductions and removals are available.
  3. Take early advice from your accountant, solicitor and, where appropriate, an insolvency practitioner. Best anticipate a problem rather than have to deal with problem that has arisen.
  4. Should you have an insolvency-related issue or a corporate dispute then please contact Gary Pettit at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on (01604) 212150 (Northampton office) or (01234) 834886 (Bedford office). Alternatively, you may send an email to or access our website at


A personal problem?


Invariably, when we talk about insolvency people start thinking of the likes of BHS, Toys “R” Us and other large corporate concerns. However, what about a problem that is closer to home?

The Insolvency Service recently released the statistics for Q2 of 2018. These show corporate insolvency numbers were down on the previous quarter (although still higher than the equivalent period of 2017) whereas personal insolvency reached its highest level since 2012.  In fact, in the 12 months ended 30 June 2018, 1 in every 433 adults in the UK entered some form of personal insolvency.

What is interesting is the number of individual voluntary arrangements (in short, a deal with your creditors) continue to exceed bankruptcies. The reason for this could be in 2015 the minimum debt for which you can petition for someone to be made bankrupt increased from £750 to £5,000.  Alternatively, it is more likely people are taking responsibility for addressing accrued personal debt and seek to enter into an IVA as a means of managing their affairs.  A recent profile case is that of Katie Price (aka Jordan) whose bankruptcy hearing was adjourned while her advisors look at the viability of her entering into an IVA.  You have to wonder how someone previously reported as being worth £45 million finds themselves in that position but it does demonstrate it can happen to anyone.

It is very simple to say people who fall into personal insolvency were reckless and spent beyond their means. However, examples I have handled include:

  • A solicitor who was hit with partnership liabilities two years after he had left the partnership.
  • Directors whose company fails resulting in personal guarantee liabilities arising.
  • The legacy of ill health or a divorce.
  • Redundancy causing a dramatic reduction in household income.

It seems, these days, people who end up falling into bankruptcy are either those who have simply nothing material to lose (or offer to creditors) or have buried their head and just let the level of creditor antagonism increase to the point of no return. Invariably, those who PBC have assisted find putting a proposal to creditors for an IVA far more likely to succeed than someone who has delayed, procrastinated or simply frustrated creditors to a point they lose any sympathy when it comes down to voting.  The message remains as always, the sooner you take advice the better the situation is likely to be.

Should you require any advice or assistance with your financial affairs then please contact either Gary Pettit or Gavin Bates at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency 

A Stark Lesson

How many readers find themselves looking at how much to pay in order to service personal debt every month after you have just been paid? In some cases that level reaches a point where it simply cannot be managed where you then start to notice those road-side signs that promise to write off 90% of your debt a little more.

Some will ignore those assurances and seek advice early. This could result in an application for your own bankruptcy where others will consult with an insolvency practitioner (“IP”) with a view to entering into an individual voluntary arrangement (“IVA”).  An IVA is, in laypersons’ terms, a deal with your creditors that is regulated and is a settlement in full and final satisfaction of your liabilities.  Indeed, over the past six years IVA have consistently outnumbered the number of bankruptcy orders, demonstrating more people are looking to resolve their debt burden.

However, a far greater majority of people look towards debt management plans (“DMP”) as their solution. While I have my own misgivings, for many people a DMP works and they get themselves back on a level footing.  Unfortunately, I have also seen many where it does not work and those people end up going bankrupt or, in some cases, enter into an IVA.

One issue that arises with companies who offer DMP is the lack of “Insolvency-like” regulation. Every IP has to be licensed through a professional body and are regulated by statute, their professional body and the Government through the Insolvency Service.  IPs also have professional guidelines to follow and are insured so there is recourse if things go wrong.  If you are wondering why you should take heed of this fundamental difference then you only have to look at the recently reported case of Gregson and Brooke Financial Services Limited and One Tick Limited.

Both Gregsons and One Tick offered a debt management service where clients would pay into a DMP. Clients complained to the Financial Conduct Authority (who governed both companies) that despite paying into their DMP their debt was increasing.  After some initial enquiries by the FCA both companies went into administration after which it was discovered the directors had withdrawn some £652,000 of client money for their own benefit.  While all four directors have been disqualified as directors, the true victims are the debt-ridden clients who now find they are in deeper financial trouble than before, despite making significant debt repayments; payments that would have been covered by IP insurance under a formal insolvency procedure.

The Association of Business Recovery Professionals have been so concerned with this (growing) problem they have published two guides:

“Don’t be misled by advice from an unlicensed advisor”

“My business is in financial difficulty”

These can be found on the Association’s website ( or on our website at

In short, if you find yourself in a position where the ability to service your debt is getting to (or has reached) a point of no return seek professional advice from an IP. With most practices, the first consultation is free of charge and could save you a lot of stress, anguish and, like the poor victims of the above companies, expense.


PBC are pleased to announce a first and final dividend to creditors from an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA).

The debtor’s proposals for an IVA were approved in November 2017 and comprised a lump sum following the sale of an investment property. The arrangement included the removal of a second charge against the dwelling property, with the creditor in question submitting a claim in the IVA.

Joint Supervisor, Gary Pettit said, “It is pleasing to see this dividend paid to creditors and the IVA nearing a successful completion. The IVA has successfully dealt with the debtor’s financial difficulties, which were not helped by the debt management plan he was previously using”.

For more information on IVAs, please see this video.

A Round Up of Recent Insolvency Statistics and Perhaps More Trouble Ahead!

Last week The Insolvency Service released the insolvency statistics for the fourth quarter of 2017. Whenever these are published, the newspapers will always look for the story without going into the details.

So for example, the press reported that personal insolvencies in 2017 increased by 9% as compared to 2016, Of course that is correct, but they didn’t report that personal insolvencies fell by 11% in Q4 2017 as compared to Q3.

It is of course true that when inflation is higher than increases in wages then it will have an effect on individuals’ surplus income and in many cases (99,196 in 2017), will lead to personal insolvencies. In the short term this is expected to continue.

Another story that didn’t seem to hit the headlines was a 2.5% rise in corporate insolvencies in 2017 as compared to 2016. First this is a small increase in any event. However, it should also be noted that corporate insolvencies have been at a historically low number for a few years now, so a small increase on what is already a small number is not worth mentioning.

So this all seems like reasonably good news for the economy as a whole. On face value it does but at PBC we are starting to see growing signs of trouble ahead.  Over the last 3 months we have seen a growing number of enquiries and work.  It is fair to say that the retail sector (the high street in particular), is struggling, partially because of the reduction in personal incomes., and also businesses which deal with discretionary spend items (for example, new car sales are down).

At some stage we also expect fallout from the Carillion failure as subcontractors and those further down the chain come to terms with the lost income and future work.

It was also interesting to see that the FCA has started to address the issue of interest only mortgages. The FCA estimate there are 1.67 million full interest only and part capital repayment mortgages in the UK and the most of these will conclude in the next 10 to 14 years. Clearly as these come to a conclusion it will have an effect on those consumers and therefore the economy.  Only time will tell.

As always if you or your business is starting to struggle we would always recommend that you take advice at an early stage. Initial meetings with PBC are free and confidential.