Barristers whose gross earnings exceed £1m a year face a 62% hike in their practising certificate (PC) fee.

The General Council of the Bar wants to raise additional income by creating two new bands of practising fee for high-earners.

At present PC fees are determined by six earnings bands. The highest fee, for those who earn £240,000 or more, is £1,850. Under proposals published today, two new bands would mean a barrister earning £500,000- £1m would pay £2,500 next year (a 35% increase) and a barrister making more than £1m would pay £3,000 (a 62% rise).  

The former (Band 8) would bring in extra income of £382,000 and the latter (Band 7) £497,000. On that basis, there are around 127 barristers who regularly gross more than £1m. 

A further £140,000 would be generated by removing the bulk discount, which is presently given to 60% of self-employed barristers and 44% of the employed bar.

Those at the bottom end of the earnings scale, who gross £30,000 and below, would pay slightly less - £100 instead of £123. The other bands are unchanged.

According to a consultation , the proposals are ‘certainly not an attempt at redistribution of wealth’ but a recognition of the ‘increasing gap in earnings across the bar and of the pressures on those at the publicly-funded bar’. 

Overall spending by the General Council of the Bar, including the Bar Standards Board, is budgeted to rise from £13.8m in 2018-19 to £14.6m in 2019/20. Extra costs will include: two additional staff in the policy department, including a head of crime (£128,000); and BSB payments to prosecutors (£72,000).

The consultation paper says the policy team is substantially smaller than it was only four years ago and is struggling to cover all the demands. ’The CEO is convinced that the new posts are necessary. We spend £50k on outsourced research each year and this does not cover all the research we need: much of this could be saved in future by having an in-house researcher.’ Cost savings include five fewer full-time posts at the BSB.

Overall income, meanwhile, is forecast to fall from £3.1m to £2.9m, which the consultation partly blames on reduced income from events and partnerships, and lower revenues from authorisations and the Bar Professional Training Course.

The consultation, published earlier this month, runs until 5 December. The plans will be brought to the joint Bar Council and BSB Finance Committee for review and approval in February 2019.