Business cheer as insolvencies fall to three-year low

Despite the doom-mongering, insolvencies are at their lowest since 2007. And there's £200m of government money up for grabs.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 05 Nov 2010
With all the pre-spending cut doom and gloom doing the rounds, it may be hard to believe – but fewer businesses are failing. New figures from Experian have shown that the insolvency rate has dropped to 0.07%, its lowest since before the recession. And businesses' finances are also beginning to recover: according to the survey, the average ‘financial strength score’ has risen from 80.79 in August 2009, to 81.06 this year. Only a slight improvement, but it does suggest things are looking up. And with £200m of unclaimed rate relief still available, it might be about to get even better…
The smallest businesses seem to be the biggest winners in all this: according to the survey, the businesses with the strongest finances are micro-businesses – those with one or two employees – which have seen their financial strength score rise by almost a point since last August. And while small businesses are still more likely to go insolvent (the highest insolvency rate was among those with three to five employees), the only bracket that saw a year-on-year rise in insolvencies was those with more than 501 employees, who saw their rate increase from 0.09% in August 2009 to 0.14% in August 2010. Which perhaps show that the smaller you are, the more adaptable you're likely to be, too.
There weren’t many surprises sector-wise: while business services firms (like consultants) are the most likely to go insolvent, the construction industry is still suffering. When it comes to financial strength, food retailers are the ones who are suffering – which presumably has something to do with the combination of food price inflation and increased competition from supermarkets. Tourism businesses, though, seem to be picking up: their financial strength score has risen by almost three points this year.
Still, if you’re looking for a way to add to your bottom line, business organisations have warned that there’s only a week left to claim backdated small business rate relief. According to the Forum of Private Business, £200m has gone unclaimed for businesses occupying commercial premises between April 2007 and April this year. If your business paid £5,000 a year in rent, it’s entitled to a cheque from the local council that should cover overheads until March 2011.
We’d get our applications in sharpish, though. After October’s spending cuts, getting any money out of the Government money will be hard work...

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