The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is set to increase by inflation 133 court fees that have not changed since 2016, raising up to £17m as a result.
The proposal is limited to fees which are “under-recovering” compared to the estimated cost of the service, and those fees which are enhanced, meaning they can be set above cost price.
Court fees generated a net £724m in 2019/20 to offset the £2bn running costs of HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) – the majority of fees have not been increased since 2016.
In a consultation paper issued last week, the MoJ said the increases would raise an estimated gross income of £21-26m a year once implemented, falling to £18-£22m after remissions were accounted for.
The similar increase in the thresholds of the ‘Help with Fees’ scheme were expected to cost £5-6m in reduced fee income, and so the whole package would raise an estimated £11-£17m.
“The estimated funding from this proposal will help fund HMCTS and enable us to continue subsidising the areas which do not attract a fee.”
The consultation closes on 17 May, and the increases, if implemented, will come into effect in late September/early October.
It excludes, for now, tribunal fees, fees reduced to cost recovery levels in August 2020; fees included in the recent MoJ decision to align the fees for online and paper civil money and possession claims, probate application fees, and fees for judicial reviews.
Courts minister Chris Philp said: “The income received from fees covers less than half of the costs of running the courts and tribunals system.
“This additional cost is subsidised by the taxpayer. There have been minimal increases to fees in the courts and tribunals since 2016, despite growing costs due to inflation, amongst other things…
“These proposed increases reflect historic inflation and therefore do not amount to an increase in real terms.”
The equalities assessment accompanying the consultation said there was likely to be over-representation of people with certain protected characteristics amongst court users compared to the general population.
“Overall, we consider that the fee increases for those over-represented will be unlikely to cause a particular disadvantage through an inability to pay and constitute a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of ensuring that HMCTS is adequately resourced and taxpayer subsidies are reduced for HMCTS.
“Furthermore, Help with Fees ensures that access to justice is maintained for those with few savings and who are on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits.”