Court Service records £100m ‘profit’ from civil litigation for first time

Courts: £411,000 paid to get out of lease

The civil courts recorded a surplus of more than £100m in 2016-17, their biggest profit to date, according to the annual report of HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

It is only the second year where the civil courts have been in surplus, a still new concept.

The civil court brought in a surplus of £116m in the year to 31 March 2017 – up from £95m – although a £14m deficit from the family courts meant that the overall profit from civil business was nearly £102m.

All tribunals saw a deficit of £162m in total, of which £96m came from the asylum and immigration tribunals.

In all, HMCTS collected £742m in fee income across all the jurisdictions over the year, leading to an overall deficit of £60m. This is down from £110m the previous year and £232m the year before that, when fee income was £673m and £586m respectively.

This reflected further fee changes and rising case volumes in family and civil, the report said. But it added that its ‘Help with Fees’ service has “slashed” the number of applications that need to be sent back and filled in again, saving £1m a year.

The report also recorded some “fruitless” payments, particularly a £411,000 premium to exit a building lease.

HMCTS employs approximately 15,750 full-time equivalent staff, a drop of 20% over five years, although the number of temporary staff has more than doubled in that time to 1,480.

The report said: “As part of our workforce, we have a number of capable agency and contract staff, equivalent to 1,480 FTEs, fulfilling both frontline roles and specialist corporate roles to support the Change Portfolio.

“As we continue on our journey of transforming HMCTS, we have deliberately recruited staff to roles on a temporary basis to minimise the risk of redundancy to our permanent workforce, and to minimise long-term redundancy costs incurred by employing staff now who we know we cannot offer a long-term role to.”

Women made up a majority of senior managers (28 out of 52) and other staff (72%), although among the service’s 12 executive and non-executive board members, seven are men.

Staff had an average of eight days sick a year.

The annual report also showed that, in all, HMCTS handled over 4.1m criminal, civil, family and tribunal cases in 2016-17.

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