The Legal Services Board has approved plans by the Bar Council to increase barristers' practising certificate fees this year so that it can plug a ‘very significant’ shortfall in its staff pension scheme.
In November last year, the Gazette revealed that the council had a £5.4m deficit in its defined benefit scheme and would need to raise fees to help fund it.
Under the confirmed proposals the lowest-earning barristers will have a £13 increase. The fee increase will rise to a £198 rise for those earning over £240,000 – some 2,500 barristers. Overall, barristers’ fees will rise by 12%.
According to the council, its plans will raise £1.3m each year which would be used ‘wholly and exclusively’ to fund the shortfall.
After 2021, the body said it would aim to cut fees so that it collects £1.1m per year.
Eventually, the hikes could allow it to build a buy-out fund to discharge the pension liability completely though the council has predicted that this could ‘take 10 years’.
The Bar Council’s pension scheme operated from 1974 to 2013 and included staff who moved to the Bar Standards Board a decade ago. The scheme was closed to new members three years ago.
A spokesperson for the Bar Council said: 'As is a requirement each year, the Bar Council and Bar Standards Board have received confirmation from the LSB that we can go ahead with our plans for the 2017-18 authorisation to practise process. This follows a consultation with the profession setting out our budget plans for the year ahead.'