The government is rewarding judges with a 2% pay rise for their frontline work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pay award was announced by HM Treasury, which is also giving pay rises to the armed forces, teachers, police officers, the National Crime Agency, prison officers, doctors, dentists, senior civil servants and senior military personnel.
Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, said: ‘These past months have underlined what we always knew – that our public sector workers make a vital contribution to our country and that we can rely on them when we need them. It’s right therefore that we follow the recommendations of the independent pay bodies with this set of real-terms pay rises.’
The treasury said this year's pay awards 'reflect the enormous effort made by those in the public sector in responding to the unprecedented challenges for the country during the Covid-19 outbreak'. The department was accepting the headline recommended rise by independent pay review bodies for each workforce.
The Ministry of Justice announced a 2% pay award in 2019/2020 for all judicial office holders as part of the government’s response to a major review by the Senior Salaries review Body. The department said it equalled the 2% pay award made in 2018/19, the highest judicial pay increase for a decade.
The announcement comes a day after justice minister Alex Chalk was asked at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid to commit to increasing legal aid rates.
Garden Court Chambers barrister Audrey Cherryl Mogan, a member of the Young Legal Aid Lawyers Group, said: ‘Since the mid-1990s, the basic salary for MPs has doubled – from £43,000 in July 1996 to £81,932 today – but during that time, legal aid rates have not increased at all, even to account for inflation. The rate of inflation in the UK from 1996 to 2020 is 60.83%. Why have legal aid rates not been increased in line with inflation, and will you commit to such an increase now to ensure a sustainable justice sector?’
Chalk replied that in some areas, fees were ‘recalibrated’ towards junior lawyers but the minister acknowledged that there were areas ‘where the fees have not changed as much as others’.
Chalk said his department would do a ‘deep dive review of civil legal sustainability’. He said an independent pay review body for legal aid was ‘not impossible’ and could be an outcome of an ongoing wider criminal legal aid review, ‘but we need to let it take its course’.
Commenting on today's announcement, Law Society president Simon Davis said: 'Civil legal aid and criminal defence practitioners have been working throughout the pandemic to seek justice for their clients and yet legal aid fees rates have not increased in cash terms, let alone in real terms, in over 20 years.
'Providing an immediate cost of living increase to legal aid providers - who have long been facing a crisis of sustainability - would make a marginal difference to the overall cost of this package and would contribute to ensuring every member of the public has access to justice.'