An ‘extraordinary’ proposed increase in Bar Standards Board staff, requiring an uplift in practising certificate fees (PCF) for most barristers next year, is not ‘reasonable or proportionate’, the chair of the Bar Council has said.

The General Council of the Bar, which incorporates the Bar Council and the BSB, published a consultation on proposed PCF increases and its budget for 2022/23 this week.

An overall increase of 4.5% in the PCF will see expected gross income from fees for 2022/23 rise to £16.84m instead of £16.1m – the current projection based on the existing fees.

The General Council of the Bar said that the proposed budgets for 2022/23 ‘include a very substantial increase in expenditure and therefore the burden on the profession’, which is ‘largely due to the BSB’s budget’ – featuring a 22% increase in staff costs for the BSB.

In a paper explaining the need for additional resources, the BSB says that ‘we must increase our budget and our capability’ to meet its aims as an effective regulator, adding: ‘We have not done so lightly.’

Derek Sweeting QC, chair of the Bar Council, said: ‘We do not think, on the material we have seen, that an extraordinary uplift in BSB staff of up to 40% over three years (mainly this year and next), requiring a substantial increase in practising fees, is reasonable or proportionate.

‘In our view, the BSB has not provided a robust business case, exploring alternatives or suggesting other, non-core regulatory work, that could be delayed or stopped to free up capacity.’

Sweeting added that the Bar Council will be asking the Legal Services Board ‘to investigate further when we submit our plans for the budget and practising fees in the new year’.

A BSB spokesperson said: ‘We understand the Bar Council’s concern that any proposed increases in our budget should be kept to a minimum, especially at a time when many barristers’ incomes have been affected by the pandemic, but we have sought to ensure that our resources are no more than is needed to deliver our statutory objectives and our proposed budget has been subject to careful scrutiny by our board.’