The Squeeze on British Businesses Is Not Letting Up Soon

Company insolvencies hit a three-decade high, with businesses under pressure from high debts, prices and interest rates. The Bank of England held rates steady on Thursday.

Britain’s economy faces a bracing fact: The number of companies that folded last year was the highest in three decades.

More than 25,000 companies registered as insolvent in 2023, the most since 1993, according to government data published this week. As pandemic-related support measures for businesses ended, the wreckage from years of high debt and interest rates, soaring prices and a cost-of-living crisis become clearer. Insolvencies have spread from small to larger businesses, analysts said.

Businesses still dealing with relatively high costs, demands for higher wages, supply chain uncertainties and wavering consumer confidence are hoping for brighter economic times. Slower inflation, stronger growth and cuts to interest rates are expected to come this year, but not soon.

On Thursday, the Bank of England held interest rates at 5.25 percent, the highest since 2008, and where they have remained since August, after rising from just above zero in a series of increases over a year and a half.

Policymakers said inflation had declined, including wage growth and services inflation, but some measures of persistence remained “elevated.” Two members of the nine-person rate-setting committee voted for a quarter-point rate increase, while one voted for the first time to cut rates.

There has been good news on inflation, “but we have to be more confident that inflation will fall all the way back to the 2 percent target and stay there,” Andrew Bailey, the governor of the bank, said on Thursday. “We are not yet at a point where we can lower interest rates.”

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