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Guide to Summary Assessment of Costs 2021: Which statement of costs to use N260, N260A or N260B?

By Mathew Bell

Take yourself back 16 years to 2005: Girls Aloud and Crazy Frog were in the charts, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles got married, and a relatively new MP called David Cameron succeeded Michael Howard as leader of the opposition.

2005 was also the last time the Guide to Summary Assessment of Costs was published…until now!

Alongside the much-anticipated publication of the new guideline hourly rates, an updated (and perhaps long overdue) Guide to the Summary Assessment of Costs was also released. Since 2005, the world of costs has undergone a radical transformation, particularly since the implementation of the Jackson reforms in 2013.  

In this blog I take a quick look at the forms to be used for summary assessment of costs.

When should summary assessment take place?

Paragraph 2 of the guide sets out when a summary assessment should be made, namely;

(a) at the conclusion of the trial of a case which has been dealt with on the fast track, in which case the order will deal with the costs of the whole claim; and

(b) at the conclusion of any other hearing which has lasted not more than one day, in which case the order will deal with the costs of the application or matter to which the hearing related. If this hearing disposes of the claim, the order may deal with the costs of the whole claim.

Summary assessments therefore take place routinely in fast-track litigation. They also occur in multi-track actions where an interim application hearing is listed, or the final hearing is listed for no longer than one day.

The format

Paragraph 7 of the guide sets out that the statement of costs should follow, as closely as possible, form N260, with which most practitioners will be familiar.

Alternatively forms N260A and N260B may be used for the costs of interim applications and trials respectively. Forms N260A and N260B were introduced in a pilot scheme (PD 51X) which will remain in operation until 31 March 2022. However, the inclusion of N260A and N260B within the guide would suggest that they are here to stay.

What are the new forms?

Both of the new forms are immediately different in appearance to the traditional N260. They are both in landscape and follow a similar format to the new electronic bill of costs, which breaks down work by phase, task and activity.

The N260A breaks work down by activity and the N260B uses phase and activity but not task.

The big change is that the forms can be produced in a spreadsheet, enabling calculation on the go.

But should we be using them…?

Advantages / disadvantages

The forms are perhaps more complicated than the N260 and will, at first, be more time consuming to complete.

However the traditional N260 has shortcomings, particularly on the rare occasions where there is a summary assessment of multi-track, budgeted claims. The N260 does not break work down by budgeting phase and, as such, the paying party and the Judge would have great difficulty in knowing whether the costs remained within budget.

Form N260B bridges the gap, as this breaks down work by phase and can therefore be summarily assessed in conjunction with the last approved costs budget/Costs Management Order.

The greatest benefit in my opinion is the ability to perform instant calculations, thus avoiding the frantic mashing of the buttons on a calculator during the hearing. It is remarkable that a self-calculating form was not introduced sooner.

So which form should I use?

There will be times when it remains simpler or cost effective to produce the traditional N260. However I do think the form’s days are numbered.

For interim applications form N260A is a more practical and useful tool for any advocate, and N260B is a must where a comparison with a budget needs to take place.

Mathew is a Costs Lawyer. He has a considerable experience in civil costs, particularly clinical negligence, catastrophic injury and commercial litigation. When not working, Mathew enjoys cycling (having recently completed the C2C cycle route in one go!) and spending time with his family.