Political lobbying and the Bar Representation Fee (BRF) – have you paid?

11 October 2018

A recent survey of barristers on each Circuit and of the young Bar showed that 63 per cent of respondents valued the Bar Council's political lobbying most. Regardless of their practice area, respondents rate lobbying highest because they know that, as the lead representative body for the Bar as a whole, the Bar Council can do more than individual Bar associations working by themselves. The Bar Council's lobbying ranges from campaigning on the LASPO review to court reform, Brexit and wider access to justice issues and everything in between. But this important work is not paid for from your Practising Certificate Fee (PCF).

The PCF can only be used for "permitted purposes" as set out in the Legal Services Act. To lobby for the Bar we depend on the BRF and from income derived from commercial activities.  These are the only ways we are able to fund this essential work for the benefit of the Bar. 

What does the PCF cover and what are "permitted purposes"? 

Broadly speaking, most of the PCF is applied to cover the cost of the regulation of the Bar. It covers the work of the independent Bar Standards Board (BSB) in relation to education and training, as well setting professional standards and ensuring arrangements are in place to maintain professional discipline. The PCF also helps to cover the costs of certain other activities - provided they fall within the scope of the statutory definition of "permitted purposes".

These activities include: the provision of practical support and advice about practice management, participation in law reform and the legislative process, the promotion of relations between the Approved Regulator and relevant national or international bodies, governments or the legal professions of other jurisdictions, and increasing public understanding of citizens' legal rights and duties. The PCF cannot be applied to cover the cost of activities which fall outside the scope of the "permitted purposes" notably the Bar Council's lobbying work on behalf of the profession in relation to improving rates of pay for publicly funded work or in developing the work of the Bar internationally, for example.  

This is why we need you to pay the BRF

The Bar Council's representational work which does not fall within the permitted purposes has to be funded from alternative sources of income, that is the BRF and surplus income derived from commercial activities (over and above the cost of providing these services for the Bar). The Bar Council's representational work on behalf of the profession as a whole will not be sustainable in its current form unless the cost of doing so can be covered by the BRF. We will not be in a position to recruit, retain and motivate appropriately qualified  staff in our Policy team without being able to cover current and planned costs. If you value political lobbying and the representational work that falls outside the "permitted purposes", please pay the BRF - it is a vital part of our effort to maintain a strong and independent profession for the future.  

What else does the BRF Fund?    

We will examine this in the next edition of BarTalk - in the meantime, go to our website to find out more

Dr Isabel DiVanna, Commercial Director at the Bar Council.