A new Costs Council was one of the recommendations of Lord Justice Jackson as an independent body to set the guideline hourly rates (GHR) every year, review fixed cost levels on a regular basis, and keep a watching brief on other issues, such as recoverable counsel’s fees and the cost of medical reports.
However, in an announcement this week, the government said that the GHR would become the responsibility of a new sub-committee of the Civil Justice Council, while all other costs issues would rest with the Ministry of Justice – which may seek advice from the sub-committee.
The Association of Costs Lawyers Chairman Iain Stark’s view is:
“The decision is disappointing. The Costs Council was a worthy reform that would have provided certainty for the profession in the future and placed decisions in the hands of those at the coal face. It would also have ensured that fixed costs, which tend to stay untouched over many years, change to reflect rises in inflation.
While the new sub-committee is a much diluted version of what Lord Justice Jackson proposed, any decision-making body made up of judges, costs lawyers and practitioners must be a good thing.
Speaking at the ACL conference in May, the then Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, said he would expect the ACL to be represented on a costs council. I hope and trust that his successor will take the same view for the sub-committee.”