The company that recommends the appointment of QCs has said its reserves should have fallen to a ‘desired level’ by the end of the current financial year, after accumulating a cash pile that is now diminishing.
Queen's Counsel Appointments reported reserves of £1.25m in its latest set of accounts, down from £1.35m last year.
In a directors’ report for the year ended 31 March 2020, the company said it had made two grants totalling £150,000 to schemes operated by the Bar Council and the Law Society, aimed at encouraging QC applications from lawyers from less traditional backgrounds.
It also made grants of £100,000 each to the Barristers Benevolent Association and the Solicitors Benevolent Association in response to the Covid-19 emergency.
‘The directors have long considered that the company has a more than adequate reserve for the continuity of its operations in periods of low demand,’ directors Malcom Cree and Paul Tennant, who is chief executive of the Law Society, wrote. ‘They considered that it would be in principle desirable for the reserves to be at a rather lower level and have sought to set fees so as to produce a deficit. However, the number of applications have generally exceeded the anticipated number and so little progress was made with reducing the level of reserves.’
They added that lower fee rates for applicants on low incomes have not led to any reduction in reserves.
However, the report said the company’s charitable donations mean ‘reserves are likely to be at around the desired level by the end of the financial year’.
The financial statement showed an operating deficit of £128,953, compared to a surplus of £16,161 in 2019.
It currently costs £2,160 to apply to be a QC, and successful applicants must pay a further £3,000 + VAT. The announcement of new QCs is expected in December 2020 or January 2021, but QC Appointments warned the process could be disrupted by the pandemic.