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The new GHRs are approved: a retreat from objectivity


The Master of the Rolls has accepted the changes recommended by the Civil Justice Council’s (CJC) working group on Guideline Hourly Rates (GHR), and has asked that the recommendations are implemented, with a view to the new guide being used from 1 October 2021.

The Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, said:

“I am grateful to the CJC, Mr Justice Stewart, and his entire working group for this report.

The published guideline rates have been static for too long and this needed to be addressed. I am satisfied with the evidence and arguments set out by the working group. I plan to implement all the recommended changes from Friday 1 October 2021 and to that effect I have asked my Officials and Master Gordon-Saker, Senior Costs Judge, to take forward the publication of the revised guide to summary assessment.

I am grateful to those who have taken the time to write to me about this work, particularly those who have raised concerns during the consultation process in respect of likely changes to working practices following the pandemic. Whilst I think there is likely to be merit in their concerns (emphasis added by Keoghs), I do not think that this should delay the necessary update of what is ultimately an advisory guide. I have, however, agreed with the Civil Justice Council that there will be a further review of guideline hourly rates reporting within 2 years.”

The revised Guide, which is in draft form at Annex J of the CJC report, will be published shortly with a view to it being used from 1 October 2021. It will contain a minor amendment from what was set out in the draft to reflect that existing National 1 counties and other identified National 1 centres will remain in Band 1 – Watford was erroneously omitted from the CJC’s draft.

Objectivity is missing

Keoghs have highlighted in previous briefings the fundamental weakness in the CJC review which failed to rely on meaningful and relevant data in its report. The data obtained is nothing more than the rates allowed by the Court in higher value complex cases. It does not reflect either the expense of time on the ground or provide a specific starting point for the Court to move from when taking into account the circumstances of the case in hand.

This decision does nothing to address the flawed methodology and seems to have been driven by pragmatism because of the time that has been allowed to elapse since the last objective review. It assumes the old GHR are too low nationally, a fact that may or may not reflect commercial reality.

It seems incongruous for the MR to go as far as accepting our concerns have merit and then to approve the recommendations. This decision is disappointing and, in our view, wrong in equal measure.

Future of GHRs

It is critical that an objective methodology and the appropriate data is used for future reviews and this is the challenge to all consumers who will have to pay costs using the (inaccurate) GHRs.

Keoghs will consider and propose an alternative methodology for review of guideline hourly rates in due course.



Howard Dean

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