At the request of the Master of the Rolls, a new Civil Justice Council (CJC) working group, led by Lord Justice Birss, was set up in April 2022 to consider four aspects of the civil costs regime. The group was tasked to review and make recommendations related to:
- Guideline hourly rates
- Costs budgeting
- Pre-action and digitisation
- Consequences of the extension of fixed recoverable costs
This followed the Master of the Rolls’ acceptance of new guideline hourly rates (GHRs) in August 2021, put forward by a previous working group, and his pledge to report again on the GHRs within 2 years of that acceptance.
Today the working group’s final report and recommendations have been published (see report below).
The Master of the Rolls, as Chairman of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), Sir Geoffrey Vos, said: “I am extremely grateful to the working group for this comprehensive report. I welcome the important recommendations that have been made.
The structures that deal with the costs of litigation are fundamental components of the justice system. They have a significant impact on access to justice.
It is essential that all those bringing or defending civil claims have clarity on their likely exposure to costs. Those costs must always remain proportionate to the value of the case.
Annual adjustment of the guideline hourly rates will ensure that they are not left to stagnate as they have in the past.
It is now 10 years since costs budgeting was first introduced in England & Wales. That period has seen significant changes to both the operation of the civil courts and our society as a whole.
Our litigation and judicial processes require reconsideration in the light of the major technological advances that have occurred. Careful consideration of the costs implications of all kinds of dispute, whether resolved in the analogue or the digital world, is essential.
I am delighted that this report has moved away from the model of the single ‘big name’ reports of past times. Such reports are never sufficiently up to date, when litigation methods are changing so rapidly to serve increasingly well-informed citizens and small businesses. There is likely to be further work required on these topics. I will ask the Civil Justice Council to consider the next steps in the very near future.”
Please find the report available below.