Government rejects judicial demands for costs council

The government has rejected Lord Justice Jackson’s proposals for a costs council despite senior judges calling for the end of the hourly rate.

Justice minister Helen Grant said yesterday that the Advisory Committee on Civil Costs (ACCC) set up in 2007 to advise on costs issues was to be disbanded with its responsibilities transferred to the Civil Justice Council.

There is to be no costs council, she added, with the new sub-committee’s standing role limited to a review of the guideline hourly rate.

Grant told Parliament yesterday: “Other fixed costs will remain for the Lord Chancellor to consider in the first instance. However, there may be other costs issues on which the Lord Chancellor and judiciary would welcome advice from the new sub-committee from time to time.”

In May the then Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger urged the government to establish a costs council to review litigation billing methods.

Neuberger, who has since been promoted to president of the Supreme Court, told the Association of Costs Lawyers: “Only a costs council canprovide the necessary, active, expert scrutiny of litigation costs at the macro level” (16 May 2012).

He added that the profession needed to adopt as a matter of urgency “value pricing rather than hourly billing”, continuing that the march of ABSs into the profession would “sound the death knell of hourly billing, as it will lead to more positive and market-orientated practices”.

Lord Justice Jackson recommended that a costs council be established by the Civil Justice Council (CJC) as part of his wider review of civil litigation costs (18 January 2010).