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“Please sir can I have some more!”

by Paul Mitchelhill

Some 11 years since the last tangible change, the final report (here) on the SCCO Guideline Hourly Rates has been published by the Civil Justice Council, following on from the ‘interim report’ published on 8 January 2021. The consultation period ran until 31 March 2021 and responses were used to produce the recommendations in the final report. Within the recommendations the report states at point 1 “The Civil Justice Council accept that the methodology used in the Interim Report is a sufficiently sound basis upon which revised Guideline Hourly Rates should be based.”

The conclusion of Section E: The Recommended Guideline Hourly Rates (GHRs) at page 63 confirms “The Guideline Hourly Rates proposed in the Interim Report should be implemented in full”.

The million $$ question…. What is proposed?

 Grade AGrade BGrade CGrade DTotal %
London 1£512 (25.2%)£348 (17.6%)£270 (19.5%)£186 (34.8%)97.1%
London 2£373 (17.8%)£289 (19.5%)£244 (25%)£139 (10.4%)72.7%
London 3£282 (13.7%)£232 (15.8%)£185 (11.9%)£129 (7%)48.4%
National 1£261 (20.2%)£218 (13.5%)£178 (10.7%)£126 (6.8%)51.2%
National 2£255 (26.78%)£218 (23.2%)£177 (21.3%)£126 (13.5%)84.78%
*The figures in brackets are the % increase over the 2010 GHRs

The areas benefiting most from the increase appear to be London 1 and National 2. There have been disputes over the proposed increases with some arguing that the London 1 rates remain well below what is being charged in some commercial matters.

The report sets out that the responses received were largely as expected and that those in favour of the report were largely receiving parties and those against were predominantly paying parties. Whatever the arguments, having waited 11 years already, it is surely time that a change was made to the Guideline Hourly Rates! As referenced in the report it has been widely accepted by both many solicitors and members of the judiciary that the rates were significantly out of date.

Guideline Hourly Rates were simply a very basic guide/starting point and generally the Court already applies an uplift (albeit broadly) to hourly rates to account for inflation, not to mention the complexity of the matter being assessed.

This report, if it does anything, should provide some reassurance to receiving parties that increased rates above and beyond the obsolete 2010 guideline rates should be allowed on assessment. It should also limit challenges to the rates from paying parties and offers based on the 2010 Guideline Hourly Rates, particularly on more complex matters which clearly justify an uplift.

There will of course be those who believe the proposed rates do not reflect an adequate increase but, as with the previous Guideline Hourly Rates, they are simply a starting point, and a well-prepared bill should set out the justification for a further uplift on the rates included as per CPR 44.4(3).

Paul is a Costs Lawyer with over 14 years’ experience in a broad range of areas, including clinical negligence, personal injury and commercial litigation. Paul qualified as a Costs Lawyer in 2012. Paul has a keen interest in costs and prides himself on providing a ‘second to none’ approach to client care.