The High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) is calling on incoming government ministers to ensure the enforcement system in England and Wales is properly funded so that it remains fair and effective for creditors and debtors alike.

 

The surprise July election called by Rishi Sunak meant there was no time for the increases to fees and thresholds proposed by the Ministry of Justice to be considered by parliament before it was dissolved.

This means that the enforcement profession is still working to a fee scale set back in 2014, despite a Ministry of Justice commitment to review it annually at that point and then an announcement in spring (check) 2023 that fees were to be raised by 5%.

As a result, the HCEOA will be asking the new government to swiftly take three steps following the general election to ensure enforcement is properly funded and that the profession is able to support individuals and businesses looking to recover their money and property:

  • Implement the recommended 5% increase in enforcement fees which was proposed by the Ministry of Justice in response to its public consultation last summer. This would be a first fee increase in over ten years.
  • Set up and deliver a regular fee review mechanism linked to inflation. The Ministry of Justice also recognised the need for a regular review mechanism last year.
  • Ensure any further reforms to the enforcement system proposed after last year’s subsequent wide-ranging Taking Control of Goods consultation are carefully considered and properly funded. The 5% fee increase addresses a historical challenge, but it doesn’t create funds required to undertake new activities.

A 2024 public perception survey of 2,000 people across England and Wales commissioned by the HCEOA showed strong public support for a fair and effective enforcement system, in which 83% of the general public agreed or strongly agreed that it is a necessary part of the justice system.

Vulnerability considerations, repayment plans and the ability for creditors to reclaim the amount owed in full were also all seen as important by the public and are supported by the HCEOA.

Alan J. Smith, Chair of HCEOA, said: “The enforcement profession has a key role to play in supporting the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Enforcement Conduct Board (ECB) as they work to shape the future of the profession and ensure that we collectively meet the public’s expectations.

“Whatever the outcome of the election in party political terms, it is clear there is likely to be a fresh approach to many of the challenges that face the UK Government. In the enforcement sector, our ask of new Ministers and new Lord Chancellor is to make sure that enforcement is funded properly – in line with the Ministry of Justice’s own recommendations – so we can deliver a fair and effective service as an integral part of the justice system.

“We’re still awaiting the implementation of a first fee increase in ten years, with potential reform of the system to go alongside it, so we’re at a critical point for the profession. Policy officials at the Ministry of Justice and the team at the Enforcement Conduct Board have done some excellent work over the past 18 months and have a real understanding of the sector and the role it plays in the economy.”

He added: “We will be engaging with the new Ministers following the election to ask them to look at the Ministry’s own recommendations, talk to policy officials at the MoJ and the team at the ECB and act quickly in this area. This will ensure the enforcement profession remains viable and sustainable and can deliver the fair and effective service that UK plc needs and the British public expects.”

The full details of HCEOA’s 2024 public perception study can be found at: https://www.hceoa.org.uk/campaigns/understanding-public-opinion.

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