Bar Council and BSB tighten belts as they brace for ‘significant drop in income’
The Bar Council and Bar Standards Board (BSB) have implemented a series of cost-cutting measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both bodies have implemented a pay and recruitment freeze, while the Bar Council confirmed it had also furloughed seven of its 35 staff. The BSB said regulatory demands, such as the need to make new arrangements for bar students whose exams have been delayed and to help the bar to maintain pupillages, meant it “has been unable to furlough staff now”.
The chairs and vice-chairs of the Bar Council and BSB, and the chief executive of the Bar Council and director general of the BSB, have all taken a temporary 20% pay cut, too. The Bar Council is expected to save £98,000 as a result of the measures, while its regulatory counterpart, will save £110,000.
In order to reduce costs further, the Bar Council said it will do as much as possible online, including training courses and major events such as the national pupillage fair.
Malcolm Cree, chief executive of the Bar Council, said: “Right now, our focus is on supporting the profession we represent through this crisis. We have been working flat out to ensure that the vital public service and contribution to society and the economy that the bar provides is recognised and supported. The scale of the challenge for practitioners and chambers must be addressed.”
He added: “As the Bar Council (including the BSB) is funded by the bar, with fees based on earnings in the previous year, we are anticipating a significant drop in income next year, hence the need to cut costs early so we do not become a greater financial burden on those we are trying to support.”
Mark Neale, director general of the BSB, commented:
“For the BSB, as regulator of the bar, the current crisis has actually increased workloads in several areas. We are working hard, for example, to ensure that students who were unable to take their bar exams in April have the chance to take them as soon as possible and to support the bar as it seeks to maintain pupillage opportunities. But we shall continue to seek savings wherever we can.”
The cost-cutting measures come on the back of research that found over two-thirds of young barristers would not survive the next six months in practice without financial support.