I’m sure all of us are pleased that the end of 2020 is in sight. It has been challenging year both for businesses and for each of us personally. If there’s one word that describes this year it’s “agile”, and I think it’s a true sign of human strength that we’ve adapted so well to survive this.
Certainly in the insolvency sector, we have seen the introduction of new legislation at record pace. Anecdotally, The Insolvency Service provides guidance to insolvency practitioners in the form of “Dear IP” publications. These were introduced in February 2001 and by December 2019, Dear IP 91 was issued, averaging just over four a year. We end 2020 with Dear IP 115 having just been issued, a record of 24 guidance publications in a single year!
As hard as this year has been, I think it’s important to also find the good in things. As a new business we have embraced the latest innovations in technology and have adapted to working from home without too many issues. Weekly virtual meetings with the team have kept morale high and new online solutions have been identified to make us more efficient too. I am sure that many of you have seen a positive impact on your business.
In particular I have enjoyed a more flexible approach to work and have spent more time with my family, which has been great. As things return to normal in 2021, I hope that these positive changes remain and I don’t regress back into the old habits.
As we look forward to 2021, its difficult to predict how well the economy will bounce back from the legacy issues of the pandemic, whether irreparable damage has been done to sectors such as retail and hospitality, and the possibility of a no deal Brexit. Unfortunately, there is probably more casualties to come with an increase in insolvency numbers being predicted. Whilst there have been unprecedented levels of support made available by the Government and provisions to defer payment of debts, at some point it does need to start being repaid.
The Government has a long journey ahead of it to recoup the hefty costs of the pandemic. The budget was scrapped this autumn, but there will no doubt be big announcements in the spring that will place further strain on business. I also have grave reservations about why the Government sought to go ahead with plans to once again become a preferential creditor. This will cause shock waves in the lending market. It will also render the use of Company Voluntary Arrangements almost worthless as CVAs cannot be used to bind preferential creditors without their consent. This effectively gives HMRC a veto on any proposed recovery plan put forward.
There should also be a word of warning for those who have misused the support available this year. With news of the first arrest on suspicion of Bounce Back Loan fraud, there may be many more to follow, and the Government is taking any fraudulent actions relating to the support offered this year very seriously.
It’s not all bad news. The introduction of the new vaccine and the likely relaxation of the restrictions will see things return to normality. We should also celebrate the many business successes that we have seen in 2020. I strongly believe that adversity enables innovation and prompts creative thinking.
From all the team at BLB Advisory, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.