The Civil Justice Council has produced a report (Guideline Hourly Rates, Working Group Report for Consultation) which recommends increases in the Guideline Hourly Rates (GHR) ranging from 7% to nearly 35%, depending on grade and location.
As we considered in our last Alerter (November 2020), GHR were last revised in 2010 and have been the subject of much judicial criticism, including the recent decisions of PLK & Ors (Court of Protection: Costs)  and Cohen v Fine & Ors  in which a percentage increase to the existing GHR was justified as a starting point for assessments.
The Report recommends the adoption of the following GHR (the figures in brackets are the increases from existing GHR):
|Grade A||Grade B||Grade C||Grade D|
|London 1||£512.00 (25.2%)||£348.00 (17.6%)||£270.00 (19.5%)||£186.00 (34.8%)|
|London 2||£373.00 (17.8%)||£289.00 (19.5%)||£244.00 (25%)||£139.00 (10.4%)|
|London 3||£282.00 (13.7%)||£232.00 (15.8%)||£185.00 (11.9%)||£129.00 (7%)|
|National 1||£261.00 (20.2%)||£218.00 (13.5%)||£178.00 (10.7%)||£126.00 (6.8%)|
|National 2||£255.00 (26.78%)||£218.00 (23.2%)||£177.00 (21.3%)||£126.00 (13.5%)|
The Working Group concluded that, against the backdrop of the pending HMCS reform programme, which is intended to change the way in which litigation is conducted and fundamentally affect the way in which the Legal Profession provides its services, it was not sensible or possible to make further changes to the existing geographical areas.
The Working Group also identified that there are omissions in the current list of geographical areas, given at present they are determined by either reference to a specific town or city, part of a specific city, by county or by region. This has resulted in large parts of the country, except for named towns or cities, not allocated to a band. The Working Group proposes the counties of Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey become National Band 1 counties given there are already four identifiable centres in those counties each categorised as National band 1.
The Working Group did not revisit suggestions that Fellows of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives with 8 years plus experience should have parity with Solicitors of equivalent experience, nor that suitably qualified Costs Lawyers should be eligible for Grade B and C given these were subject of a detailed consideration in 2014. They also rejected the proposal to introduce a new Grade E for paralegals as there was no comprehensive data in respect of the range of salaries or costs that reflected the market.
The Working Group invites comments on its proposals between now and 4pm on Wednesday, 31 March 2021. In particular, comments are sought on the following areas (interested parties will need to read the Report, which is available at www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/20210108-GHR-Report-for-consultation-FINAL.pdf):
- The methodology used by the Working Group;
- The recommended changes to areas London 1 and London 2;
- The recommended GHR set out in paragraph 4.18 of the Report;
- Specifically, whether the rate of £186 for London 1 Grade D is too high; if so, at what rate it should be set and why;
- The recommended changes to the geographical areas in section 5 of the Report and the recommendation to have two national bands;
- Should the Working Group recommend that the Civil Procedure Rule Committee be requested to consider amending the summary assessment form N260 and the information provided on the detailed assessment bill – the amendment would be to require the signatory to specify the location of the fee earners carrying out the work;
- The recommended revisions to the text of the Guide in Appendix J.
It will be interesting to note the outcome of the consultation.