Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Fee remissions for the courts and tribunals

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One of the policy features which underpin the civil court system is that the civil courts should as far as possible be self-funding. (This aim does not currently include judicial salaries and pensions.)
The current position is that in 2011/12 the cost of running the non-criminal business administered by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) was around £713m. Of this amount 67% was funded through fees (£480m) with the remaining 33% funded by the taxpayer (£233m) as part of the Ministry of Justice’s spending settlement.

The tax-payer subsidy is made up of two elements:

  • Fees set below full-cost levels, i.e. the fee charged does not cover the actual cost to the court or tribunal of processing the work being charged.
  • Fee income foregone under a system of fee remissions (waivers). In 2011/12 approximately 171,000 fee remissions were granted at a total value of £27.8m.

The Government’s overall aim is to reduce the taxpayer subsidy for the civil business by ensuring that fee income covers 100% of the cost of providing services, minus the income foregone to the remission system. For tribunals the aim is to maximise cost recovery and separate targets below full cost recovery have been agreed by the Ministry of with Her Majesty’s Treasury.

To achieve this objective, basic fees will need to rise – to address the first point.

This blog refers to a consultation on the second issue – fee remission – designed to introduce great uniformity of approach and better targetting of the remission regime to the very poor. In effect, the remission system relies on a means-test, and the consultation paper indicates that the means-test will become tougher for all but the very poor.

Details of what the Government is proposing are set out in https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/fee-remissions-court-tribunals/consult_view

One point should be noted. In the good old days, it was a principle of government that any consultation should last for at least 3 months – to enable those who might wish to comment find the time to assemble their thoughts, and draft their responses. There is a notable current trend that consultation periods should be much briefer. The consultation period for the current exercise is only a month. The consultation on the judicial review changes, noted before, was similarly attenuated.

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Written by lwtmp

May 8, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Posted in chapter 6, Chapter 8

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