The Court Fees Order statutory instrument came into force on 30 September 2021 following a public consultation on ‘increasing selected Court fees and help with fees income thresholds by inflation’. Following this, Courts and Tribunals registered in England and Wales have increased Court fees by 0.8% for all matters within the civil and family jurisdictions.
The consultation, held between March 2021 and May 2021, summarised the Ministry of Justice (MOJ)’s proposal to raise Court fees due to the historic inflation backdated to August 2016 to April 2021. Out of 89 responses to the consultation, 61% of respondents across the legal, public, property, enforcement, and Court sectors disagreed with the proposal to apply inflation rates to Court fees.
Those who agreed with the suggestion of a fee increase suggested that it was the wrong time to implement them during the pandemic due to the impact of COVID-19 on people and businesses.
What are the reasons for implementing an increase in Court Fees?
Within the proposals, the MOJ stated that a total net fee income of £724m was generated through court fees in 2019/20, compared to the running costs of HMCTS of almost £2 billion.
In response to the consultation, the MOJ said that the proposed increases reflect historic inflation and are in line with the same.
‘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. Whilst court and tribunal fees are reviewed to ensure they reflect the cost of the service, there have been minimal increases to fees in the courts and tribunals since 2016, despite growing costs due to inflation, amongst other things.’
Therefore, the government response to inflationary increases is that there is not really an increase in real terms. The government assured members of the public that the increased costs aims to cover rising costs and does not profit from court users in any way.
The examples of fees that are due to increase are fees associated with hearings for Multi-Track cases and Small Claims Track cases, enforcement, rises in family court fees, divorce and financial proceedings, and children matters.
The High Court enforcement fee for the Writ of Control, Possession, or Delivery is now £71 (previously £66). Whereas the enforcement via County Court Bailiff now stands at £119 (an increase from £110).
It should also be noted that these Court fee increases are announced shortly after Guideline Hourly Rates have been increased from October 2021 onwards, and so the costs of litigation are overall, on the increase.
What impact will this have on the legal industry?
The MoJ has acknowledged the impact of the pandemic on individuals and businesses. As a result, they are considering changing the threshold for receiving help to assist in access to justice. If an applicant currently earns below £1,165 per month, they could be eligible for the remission scheme which can allow up to 100% of the Court fee to be discounted. The monthly income threshold for a couple will also change to £1,335. Therefore, those who may not be able to afford to pay their Court fees will be offered some assistance.