"Chris Nutting, director of personal insolvency at KPMG said: "While these figures show an apparent decrease in the number of people filing for their own petition in bankruptcy the numbers do not reflect the true picture.
"A new procedure called a Debt Relief Order (DRO) was introduced in April, 2009, which allows consumers with debts of less than £15,000, and minimal assets or surplus income, to write off their debts without entering into a full blown bankruptcy.
"Our research shows that a percentage of these people would have previously used bankruptcy to resolve their financial problems.
"Adding the number of DROs for the three months ended March 31, 2010, to the number of debtor's petitions reveals that 21,992 people took action themselves to resolve their financial problems by seeking out a formal insolvency procedure.
"Comparing this to the same quarter last year it can be seen that there has been an overall increase of 31 per cent."
"Gill Wrigley, a Director at RSM Tenon Recovery in the North West, said: “The rise in the number of bankruptcy petitions in Wigan goes against the national trend but will come as no surprise to the many people affected by the downturn.