Less than two weeks after the voluntary pilot of the new electronic bill of costs began in the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO), the start of the follow-on mandatory pilot has already been postponed, it emerged yesterday.
In a statement, the Senior Costs Judge, Andrew Gordon-Saker, said the proposal for the mandatory pilot – which had been due to start on 1 April 2016 –was before the Civil Procedure Rule Committee last week.
“The committee decided to adjourn it to enable the views of the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunals Service to be obtained in relation to the proposal. No other decision has been taken about the mandatory pilot or its timing, save that the committee indicated that it would not countenance any mandatory scheme coming into effect before October 2016 at the earliest.
“The voluntary pilot will be extended by six months to October 2016.”
The rule committee approved the voluntary pilot in July with the aim of testing the bill and amending it as necessary before making it mandatory.
It is the product of a committee currently chaired by Alexander Hutton QC of Hailsham Chambers, formed following a recommendation in the Jackson report that “a new format of bills of costs should be devised, which will be more informative and capable of yielding information at different levels of generality”.
Draft guidance published in August said that the “ultimate aim” of the committee “is to create the foundations of a system under which contentious work is contemporaneously recorded electronically and, from that time-recording data, various levels of information are produced automatically and at proportionate cost for budgeting, summary assessment and detailed assessment purposes”.
A year ago the committee completed the first stage of its work when the J-Codes – electronic time recording codes which will be used by fee-earners – were approved by the senior judiciary and the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard (LEDES) oversight committee.
Since then it has been working to design the new bill of costs. This aims to be a “self-calculating, self-summarising spreadsheet document based on the J-Codes, which is capable of being generated automatically by use of the J-Codes and adopting the same structure”, the guidance said.
The results of the consultation on the draft guidance and associated documents have still to be published.
The rule committee was told in July that the new bill of costs was an essential part of the process by which costs management can be fully implemented through to the costs assessment stage.