This is a link to the Law Society Gazette article on Master Whalan’s decision on hourly rates in respect of four Court of Protection cases – PLK and others.
This comes hot on the heels of reports of a further review of the SCCO guideline hourly rates and, no doubt, there will be attempts to apply Master Whalan’s 20% inflation-bashing uplift more generally in the interim. As always, it really comes down to the facts of each case and we will continue to have arguments about the ‘starting point’ and the proper application of guideline rates on detailed assessments, no matter what the new rates may be.
Fixed hourly rates would inevitably come with numerous tiers, exceptions and opt-outs in tow and, therefore, would mean a greater burden for the administration to collate, construct and review them annually. Guideline hourly rates have, however, served us well for numerous years. These were initially compiled with the help of the secret stashes of hourly rates lists that costs masters, costs officers and district judges kept in their desk drawers.
And you know the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. We have had enough change. I still have my trusty folder of guideline hourly rates which includes published county court rates going back to the 1990s. I kept it because I never knew when I might get a case that spans a decade or so. Not that long ago, I had to draw a bill of costs where the work on the case commenced in 2003. Having historic guideline hourly rates, that were based on a largely accepted method of establishing what represented the market rates of the time, was very useful indeed. There was always going to be an argument over what was an appropriate rate for the case but those lists of historic rates, with the benefit of the increases in rates in prior years for referencing the post-2010 period, provided a very useful starting point.
With costs officers’ desk drawers spilling over with their own lists of hourly rates, now updated with the benefit of all those costs budgets, summary assessment schedules and electronic bills of costs, there should be sufficient evidence to compile a dossier of rates across the full spectrum of cases and locations which will, no doubt, be uploaded electronically to a very useful database. I will hold on to my trusty folder for now though.