Representatives of claimant lawyers have questioned why court users have to keep funding the service and asked – given the state of so many courts – exactly what the fees income is being spent on.

The Ministry of Justice has proposed to increase some court fees by 10% to raise up to £42m extra every year, which it says will go directly to funding the court service.

Its consultation ends this week, and respondents from the claimant sector have used the opportunity to publicly query whether court users are getting value for money. They further complain of a lack of transparency about how fees are set and how the 10% uplift has been chosen.

Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of claimant trade body the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO), said that a proportionate rise in fees was reasonable but that the process for setting the new figures ‘makes little sense’.

‘Nothing is clear, and like so many other changes to the costs regime, we fail to see a methodical, joined-up, professional process informing the consultation,’ he said. ‘When it comes to civil justice, policymaking on the back of a fag packet is simply not good enough.’

ACSO said the government should have used the services producer price inflation index to produce a more accurate reflection of inflation. This would have calculated the potential rise at 9.3%. He also questioned why the MoJ’s assessment of fees took into account the period between March 2021 and March 2023, but not the months since.

Maxwell Scott pointed out that the consultation gave no clear indication whether funds would be used to tackle court delays, currently at record levels.

‘It’s unacceptable that average delays are nearly 18 months for fast/multi track cases, and the funds raised should be used to help tackle this rather than just disappearing into general funds or being used to target politically more attractive criminal court failings,’ he said.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers also supported a rise in fees but disagreed with the premise that court users should meet the full costs of the system.

‘Just as schools are not paid for by pupils, and hospitals are not maintained by the sick, the civil court should not rely on court users as their main source of revenue,’ APIL’s response stated. ‘Justice, just as education or healthcare, cannot be restricted to those able to pay for it.’

APIL suggested that the help with fees remissions scheme should be updated if fees are increased.