The issue of hourly rates has once again been addressed and emphasised recently in the case of R (Fuseon Limited) v Shinners  EWHC B18 (Costs). Once again, comment has been made that guideline rates (GHR) are exactly that, a guideline to be used as more of a starting block rather than a limitation. This decision gives emphasis to the approach the Senior Courts Costs Office is taking with regard to the increases to the guideline hourly rates and supports further the comments of O’Farrell in Ohpen Operations UK Ltd v Invesco Fund Managers Uc [2019) EWCH 2504 (TCC).
However, it goes on also to further support similar arguments as O’Farrell in the use of specialised solicitors. Whilst this case specifically deals with criminal costs, it is widely known that the Civil Procedure Rule committee have stated that a sub-committee of the Civil Justice Council has been established to review the GHR. Meaning, that we can expect recommendations for adjusting hourly rates by the end of the year, which will also have a positive impact on Deputy case management costs and recovery of applicable rates which remain strictly limited to GHR other than in exceptional circumstances.
There has been increased pressure for changes to be made to the guideline hourly rates; these were first set in 2010 to assist judges in assessing costs following the Woolf reforms and the introduction of the Civil Procedure Rules. The rates were reviewed in 2014 but that still leaves a 6 year lag since the last review.
This pressure has certainly increased in recent months due to Covid-19 as cash flow is at the forefront of every law firm and it is vital that solicitors are able to recover fair and reasonable costs in line with market increases and to reflect specialised skills and knowledge.
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