The number of county court judgments against businesses has fallen, official year-on-year figures show, fuelling speculation that higher court fees are preventing businesses from going to court to recoup debts.

According to the Registry Trust’s latest figures, the number of CCJs against businesses in England and Wales fell by 21% from 99,670 in 2015 to 78,739 in 2016 – the lowest level on record.

In August last year, the Gazette reported that in the first six months of 2016, 42,091 CCJs were made against businesses in England and Wales, a 19% fall year on year.

Registry Trust chair Malcolm Hurlston CBE said the continuing reduction suggested that businesses have been managing their debts better since the vote to leave the EU on 23 June.

But speaking about August’s figures, Hurlston previously told the Gazette that higher court fees had also played their part.

‘We understand that the volume of business judgments in particular has been affected by the rise in court fees,’ he said. ’We have not carried out our own research but that would seem to tie in with common sense, particularly in the immediate aftermath of a price change.’

The trust’s latest figures, published this month, also revealed more CCJs against consumers in England and Wales last year than any year on record.

In 2016, 912,389 judgments were registered against consumers, rising almost a quarter on the previous year’s figure. It is the fourth consecutive year in which the total number of CCJs has risen.

The news comes at a time when the Ministry of Justice is expected to open a consultation into unresolved debts which it said can damage people’s credit ratings.

The MoJ said in December last year that a consultation would be launched in the new year.

Justice minister Sir Oliver Heald said at the time: ‘It cannot be right that people who are unaware of debts can see their lives and finances ruined by CCJs.’

The MoJ said it held a roundtable last week and another will be held this week.

'Feedback from the roundtable events will be collated and used to inform our consultation on the issue, which will be launched in the coming weeks,' a spokesperson said.