Business debt judgments fall to new low

The number of county court judgments recorded against businesses in England and Wales fell to a new first quarter low, according to new statistics.

The Registry Trust, a non-profit organisation that collects judgment information from across Britain and Ireland, reported in April that in the first quarter of 2014, there were 27,909 county court judgments (CCJs), down six per cent compared with the previous first quarter low recorded in 2013. This is only the second time that the total number of first quarter business CCJs has fallen beneath the 30,000 mark since the turn of the century.

Registry Trust chairman Malcolm Hurlston said: “By any interpretation, the record low in business judgments presents a positive picture. It may have been helped by more forbearance from lenders or reflect cautious lending in the aftermath of the crisis.”

The downwards trend in debt judgments applies to both incorporated and unincorporated businesses. The number of CCJs recorded against the former fell five per cent year on year to 16,015 in the first quarter of 2014, while the equivalent figure for unincorporated businesses fell by seven per cent to 11,894.

The combined value of business CCJs in England and Wales also continued to fall, decreasing a further 18 per cent year on year to reach £105.2 million in Q1 2014. This compares with the £290.8 million peak sum recorded in the first quarter of 2009.

The number and value of judgments against businesses in the High Court for England and Wales increased year on year, although figures for this type of judgment tend to vary significantly owing to the relatively small number of cases and larger sums involved.

There were 74 high court judgments against businesses in Q1 2014, compared with 47 in the same period last year and a previous first quarter high – also 74 – in Q1 2011.

The value of high court judgments against businesses more than doubled year on year to £42.5 million in the first quarter of 2014, making a total for the quarter of £147.7 million for business judgments in all courts.

However, in contrast to the Registry Trust figures, the latest Insolvency Service statistics revealed a 4.9 per cent year on year increase in company liquidations between the first quarters of 2013 and 2014. There were 3,721 liquidations in Q1 2014, compared with 3,547 in Q1 2013.

For any business facing financial difficulties, seeking professional advice at the earliest possible stage should be a priority. By doing so, businesses will have a greater range of options open to them for resolving challenges and be better placed to make informed decisions about how to address their financial problems and get their enterprises back on track. Palmers can provide expert advice on a wide range of insolvency matters – for more information, please visit our website or contact Andrew Skinner.