In March of this year, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) opened a 2-month public consultation into proposals for reforming court fees and income thresholds governing fee remission.
The Government received 89 responses to its consultation, in the form of a completed questionnaire that essentially asked whether it was right for fees and fee remission thresholds to rise periodically in line with inflation.
According to the Government’s response to the consultation (dated 31 August 2021), 61% of those who participated were not in favour of court fee inflation, arguing that it would be wrong to increase costs at a time when COVID-19 was still having a detrimental financial impact. Some also felt that the quality of service provided by HM Courts & Tribunals Service did not justify an increase as a matter of principle.
In spite of widespread opposition, the Government is still set to impose 129 new court fees on litigants in the near future, 66 of which fall under the scope of the Civil Proceedings Fee Orders 2008 (see Schedule 1):[i]
‘The proposed increases reflect historic inflation and are therefore not an increase in real terms. The income generated from these proposals will go towards the [rising] running cost of HMCTS and will ensure that the courts and tribunals can continue to deliver access to justice for all’ – emphasis on the fact that the purpose if this exercise is not to profit from court users.
The majority of court fees were last updated in August 2016, so Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation will be backdated from then, in the region of between 7% and 8%. For the 10 or so court fees updated more recently, either in July 2018 or July 2019, inflation will naturally be lower.
As an example, the hearing fee for a multi-track case is due to increase by 7.8%, from £1,090 to £1,175. Other notable fee increases include:
- The Part 8 Claim issue fee;
- The general application fee;
- The application fee for permission to appeal or extend time;
- The consent order fee;
- Small claims track issue fees (different depending on the value within the track); and
- Fee for commencing detailed assessment of costs (different depending on the extent of costs claimed).
Of course, fee inflation will be offset by a more generous fee remission scheme, with court users’ monthly income threshold going up by 7.8% (£85) for a single person and 8% (£100) for a couple.
Changes to fees and fee remission thresholds will be effected via negative statutory instrument in early Autumn 2021 and will apply thereafter.
[i] John Hyde, ‘MoJ pushes on with court fee increases despite majority opposition’ (1 September 2021 Law Gazette) <https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/moj-pushes-on-with-court-fee-increases-despite-majority-opposition/5109635.article> accessed 1 September 2021.