From 1st October 2021, the new Guideline Hourly Rates will come into force. This means that from this date, subject to your retainer/client care letter, you will be able to claim the new hourly rates. The new rates are as follows:
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The new Guideline Hourly Rates will displace Master Whalan’s decision in PLK & Others (2020). The new GHR differ across geographical locations, but overall, they are increased from the outdated 2010 GHR. For most junior fee earners, the increase is less than those awarded in PLK & Others.
In respect of Court of Protection costs specifically, the report quotes Master Whalan in the decision of PLK & Others, where he concluded that ‘ultimately I am not satisfied that the evidence supports Mr Wilcock’s contention that COP firms have experienced a significant increase in hard and soft overheads’.
It was also noted that ‘in general, however, COP assessments can be conducted by costs officers utilising the GHR as the reasonable hourly rate. The issue as to the appropriate status or grade of fee earner for the work in question will always be a matter for discretion of costs officers and/or costs judges’. When considering the PLK rates, the decision was made that ‘the GHR rates (if approved) are the rates to be used, not the PLK rates’.
The impact of this for Court of Protection practitioners is that the rates stated in the PLK & Others judgment dated 30 September 2020, as set out below, will no longer apply to costs to be assessed by the Senior Courts Costs Office, and that the new GHR will instead be applicable.
As well as this, there will also be an increase to Court fees which will also impact COP matters. The new Court fees will impact all COP matters, with the COP assessment fee increasing from £85 to £87. The cost of a costs appeal in COP matters will increase from £65 to £70.
Alongside policy change, there have been many changes at the SCCO too with several experienced Costs Officers leaving or retiring, creating inconsistent assessments and large delays.
In addition, the proposed COP E-Bill is almost ready for consultation and once approved, will create a more streamlined assessment process. The SCCO are also now accepting electronic PDF bundles for assessment, which is positive news for the environment. However, electronic systems are not without their flaws and it’s likely to take some time for the SCCO to adapt fully.
If you have any questions about any of the issues raised, please contact Laura Gillin at Laura.Gillin@clarionsolicitors.com