The Ministry of Justice may seek a private contractor to provide criminal court enforcement services, justice minister Jonathan Djanogly has said.

Last week, the Gazette revealed that outstanding fines had risen to £609m in the past 12 months, while enforcement staff numbers had dropped by 57, to 396.

The MoJ is looking at cost-cutting measures as it seeks to find savings of around 20% from its budget.

In a written statement to ­parliament last week, Djanogly said: ‘Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service is developing a strategy for the enforcement of fines and how best to improve this in the future.

This could include forming a partnership with a commercial partner.’

The minister said no tender process had yet begun for the provision of enforcement functions, but there is speculation that contracts could be drawn up as early as this autumn.

Campaigners have begun attempts to block any privatisation of the collection of court fines. An early day motion in the House of Commons has been signed by 21 MPs, comprising 14 from Labour, four Liberal Democrats and three from Plaid Cymru.

A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union said: ‘We are concerned that ­private companies will only ­target soft options for easy money as they put profit before justice and employ ­unaccountable debt-collecting ­tactics.’