The Supreme Court had been asked to put forward plans to slash between 25 to 40 per cent in its £13 million budget, along with all other public sector bodies, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers has told The Times.

“I think it would be very difficult to make 25 per cent cuts,” he said in an interview with The Times to mark the court’s first year. The Supreme Court was “determined” to continue with its work “in the way we are doing at the moment,” he added. “We were set up to sit publicly as the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

“It is very important that that the public sees us doing our job and I would be very reluctant to make economies that would really curtail our activities.”

He added: “I think there is a risk that cuts will go too far and have a damaging impact on the administration of justice.”

Two thirds of the court’s budget were fixed costs, including the salaries of the 12 justices, and could not be cut, he said. The Lord Chancellor had a statutory duty to bid for the resources that he believed were necessary to run the court, which was set up exactly one year ago with its own building in Parliament Square.  But Lord Phillips conceded that “we are in a time of great financial stringency” and judges could not be a special case.

“It would be quite unrealistic to suggest this court should be isolated from the economies and we are giving very serious consideration to just how we can save the money.”

But it was not easy, he said, because the court’s budget, which at present is just under £13 million, was designed to enable it to run as it presently was running.  The Supreme Court judges, along with all other members of the judiciary, have had their pay frozen for two years.  Lord Phillips, who has expressed his concerns to Kenneth Clarke, Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, added that some economies could be made among administrative staff, such as using less highly qualified personnel.  He said that while a ring-fenced budget or statutory protection for their funding would be welcome, it was an unrealistic expectation.

“I think all justices would be very happy to have a nice ring-fenced budget and didn’t have to worry too much about economies but life isn’t like that.”

Lord Phillips comments come just weeks after another Supreme Court justice, Lord Hope of Craighead, said that the court would be forced to close for business if 40 per cent cuts were implemented.

Since its launch last October, the new court — which removed the highest court of appeal from the House of Lords into a separate building — has heard 67 appeals and handed down 62 judgments.

This article originally appeared in the The Times on 7 October 2010, and is reproduced with permission and thanks