The Bar Council has furloughed a fifth of its staff and has cut its budget to prepare for a ‘significant drop in income’ next year.
The representative body said today it had furloughed seven of its 35 staff members and has frozen pay reviews and recruitment. The chair, vice chair and chief executive of the council – along with the chair, vice chair and director general of the Bar Standards Board – have also agreed to a temporary 20% pay cut. The Gazette understands the Bar Council chair is paid £180,000 a year in normal circumstances.
The BSB said it cannot furlough staff at present because of ‘regulatory demands’, but has implemented a pay and recruitment freeze which is expected to save £110,000. The Bar Council hopes to save £98,000 in the same manner.
Bar Council business plans have also been cut in in order to save money and staff time. The organisation said it will do as much as possible online, including training courses and major events such as the pupillage fair.
Malcolm Cree CBE, chief executive of the Bar Council, said: ‘ As the Bar Council (including the BSB) is funded by the bar, with fees based on earnings in the previous year, we are anticipating a significant drop in income next year, hence the need to cut costs early so we do not become a greater financial burden on those we are trying to support. Therefore, we have furloughed roles, frozen pay and recruitment and cut back our business plans.
’We are a very small organisation, which relies heavily on our dedicated staff and some 400 volunteer barristers, and punches well above our weight, but we know that we need to be as lean as possible, especially now.’
Mark Neale, director general of the Bar Standards Board, added: ‘For the BSB, as regulator of the bar, the current crisis has actually increased workloads in several areas. We are working hard, for example, to ensure that students who were unable to take their bar exams in April have the chance to take them as soon as possible and to support the bar as it seeks to maintain pupillage opportunities. But we shall continue to seek savings wherever we can.’
A Law Society spokesperson said: ‘We are talking to our members about a wide range of issues and our focus right now is on supporting them through this crisis. The Society is reviewing its own situation as part of our response to the crisis and will continue to do so.’