The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has reported that its annual income is expected to plummet by almost a quarter (24%) by the end of this financial year, with the smaller than expected number of firms or ‘entities’ that had sought its oversight contributing significantly to the shortfall.
Only 36 firms are currently on the register, despite BSB predictions at one point that there would be 400 by the end of 2015.
It has also emerged that the timetable for the BSB becoming a regulator of alternative business structures (ABSs) had slipped again from June to October 2016.
At a meeting on Thursday, BSB board members heard that income other than that raised through practising certificate fees was likely to total £1.43m by end of 2015-16, as against a prediction of £1.87m.
The regulator’s planning, resources and performance committee said in a report that a “variety of factors” had hit income, including “lower numbers of entity regulation applications”. It is now forecasting just £7,000 in income from entity regulation by the end of the year, compared to budgeted income of £258,000.
Patricia Robertson QC, vice-chair of the BSB, said it was difficult for the regulator to predict take-up in the first year, without “any experience” of entity regulation.
Acknowledging that the forecast for income had been “scaled back quite comprehensively”, Vanessa Davies, director-general of the BSB, said there had to be sufficient staff to handle the number of applications.
However, she said the job descriptions of staff were “quite flexible” so they could be redeployed elsewhere.
The report also said that following the BSB’s application to become an ABS regulator in April 2015, its “indicative launch date” to begin regulation had been set for 1 June 2016.
However, because of the “extended consultation periods” required by the Ministry of Justice, this had been put back to 3 October 2016.
In a separate development, the BSB said it would launch a consultation next month on how it raised some of its revenue, including fees paid by entities and foreign lawyers.
A BSB spokeswoman said: “The regulator is consulting on the fees and charges it currently levies on those who use specific regulatory services, such as foreign lawyers, education and training providers and entities.
“The BSB wants to make sure that fees and charges imposed are fully accountable, transparent and fairly applied.”
The spokeswoman added that the consultation was quite separate from the one being conducted by the Bar Council on practising certificate fees.