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The insolvency Service: September Disqualification Figures - Must Try Harder

Posted on Oct 14, 2020. by NTI

The Insolvency Service is a nice place to work. That is the opinion of the 25 reviewers who have taken the time to put fingers to keyboards. There are 1700 of them working there, in 22 locations around Great Britain. The average salary in the United Kingdom is £35,423: add on a few little extras such as NIC, pension, a couple of benefits, working space, training and we can see this rocket to around, say, £45,000? That is an employee cost of, at least, £76,500,000. That is a lot.

First Division Association general secretary Dave Penman said that in March 2020 permanent secretaries of the civil service (which includes the Insolvency Service) had "transformed their staff from being 95% office-based to 95% home-based in three weeks". Whew, that's fast. Which is a little strange, as in the Insolvency Service Enforcement Outcomes published today (Wednesday 14 October), reporting on the enforcement activities of our great friends at the Insolvency Service between 1 April and 30 September the evidence suggests the opposite. Rather sluggish, in fact.

For the year to date there have been 480 Director Disqualification Orders and Undertakings, compared to 1,280 in 2019, 1,243 in 2018, 1,231 in 2017 (and so the numbers continue, never dipping below 1,034 and being as high as 1,386 in 2009 - 2010 and 1,483 in 2010 - 2011). If the Insolvency Service continue this proud record they will achieve around 860, maybe 900 Orders and Undertakings this year. Oh, we know ... Coronavirus. It's been a very tricky year, hasn't it? But, hang on: don't the Service have three years to take an action for disqualification proceedings, so doesn't this indicate that this number represents (at least some) cases that started last year?

We are just getting Billy to check.

Yep, that's right. But Coronavirus, eh? This is the bit we are finding the most testing. We absolutely understand the difficulties in knowing when to log into and out of flexitime, and the fridge is a long way to walk to from the dining room table, and the neighbour has an annoying habit of cutting his hedge once a month, but isn't one of the words in the phrase 'working from home' 'working'? And aren't distractions fewer and interruptions less?

Hang on, we know that it is not the quantity that matters, it is the quality of the job being done. Which makes it all the more interesting that the length of disqualification time directors are getting is also reducing. So far this year, 192 directors were disqualified for between five and ten years, and 29 between ten and 15 years. Let's double those numbers up, to offer a comparison. In 2019, those being disqualified between five and ten years was 483 (and two times 192 is 384 (call it 400)) and 69 for between ten and 15 years (and two times 29 is 58 (call it 60)). Looking back further, the comparative numbers in 2009/10 are 521 and 185 respectively. So as not to select a rogue year to make our point, those numbers were 556 and 152 the following year.

Is one argument that the insolvency service are focusing on 'the easy wins' in terms of who is being disqualified?

We are just getting Billy to check. 

That would be a 'yes', too. How about the numbers of companies being wound up in the public interest? They have dropped too. So far this year the number is 16.  Last year it was 52 and dropped each year going back to 2015/2016, when it was 131. Bear in mind that number was 365 in 2011/2012. One explanation for this is that directors are progressively not flouting the law any more. Could there be another explanation?

We are just getting Billy to check.

It seems there might be. We didn't feel entirely comfortable suggesting what might be going on with these numbers, published by the Insolvency Service itself, so we asked a couple of people around the country for their views.

Margaret from Cardiff: "What are they actually doing with the time spent at home?"

Obasi from Chichester: "They published these numbers themselves? They work for the Government, right?

Slash from East Grinstead: "Lay down on the floor and count to 100. Don't look up and don't move."

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