Wealthy litigants will have to stump up higher fees under government proposals to help put the civil courts on a ‘solid financial footing’.

A consultation published by the Ministry of Justice aims to ensure that wealthy litigants taking high-value cases through the civil courts pay fees that more accurately reflect costs to the system and help balance the books at HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

Running costs of civil courts in England and Wales add up to £600m a year. At present the service runs a £100m deficit, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. The MoJ expects the changes to generate nearly £200m a year.

Proposed changes include increasing fees paid by parties in commercial disputes to up to £20,000 and introducing a daily hearing fee of £1,000.

Fees for cases involving claims for money will increase on a sliding scale, with a maximum fee of £1,870. In future the government is to consider introducing a system where the fee is calculated as a percentage of the amount under dispute in a case.

A standard fee of £270 will be introduced for civil cases that are not about claims for money, instead of the current mixture of fees.

The cost of uncontested divorce would increase from £270 to £750, while the £75 application fee for domestic violence injunctions will be scrapped.
Fees would stay the same for family cases including child contact, divorce financial disputes and adoption applications and there would be a reduction in the fee for local authorities to apply to take a child into care.  

The consultation paper states there is a ‘pressing need’ to place HMCTS on a ‘solid financial footing’.

Courts minister Shailesh Vara said: ‘We have the best court system in the world and we must make sure it is properly funded so we keep it that way.

‘Hardworking taxpayers should not have to subsidise millionaires embroiled in long cases fighting over vast amounts of money, and we are redressing that balance.’

The fee changes are part of the ministry’s ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency of the courts and cut costs. Since 2010 HMCTS has closed 138 courts and reduced its staff by 3,500.

The consultation runs until 21 January.