PLK & Ors  EWHC B28 (Costs)
A cost master has uplifted four cost bills from different firms for Court of Protection work.
The firms argued the 2010 guideline hourly rates did not recognise the specialism of the work, high overheads and the impact of inflation in the past 10 years. Hourly rates claimed were significantly in excess of the Supreme Court Costs Office guideline rates.
Master Whalan was not able to change the rates as this was the preserve of the Civil Justice Council and he rejected an argument that costs burdens were any higher in Court of Protection work.
However he did accept that rates should be subject to ‘some form of periodic, upwards review’.
The master determined that if hourly rates claimed fell within approximately 120% of the 2010 guideline rates, they should be regarded as ‘prima facie reasonable’, albeit remaining subject to assessment.
He advised that costs officers should in future exercise some ‘broad, pragmatic flexibility’ when applying the 2010 rates to hourly rates claimed.
Delegation of routine work was relevant to the grade of fee earner rather than the rate itself.
Work on revising the 2010 rates is underway but this ruling may bring early pressure to bear on rates that many expect will rise following the Civil Justice Council review.
Reserves for Court of Protection Costs will need to be reviewed in light of this judgment. However work should still be delegated from the deputy to an appropriate grade of fee earner and there should be evidence of a competitive selection process when selecting a deputy and agreeing proposed rates.