Costs News

08 January 2020
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Oversight regulator praises CLSB’s “considerable progress”

The Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) has made “considerable progress” in improving its performance, the latest review by the oversight regulator has concluded.

The Legal Services Board (LSB) said it recognised “the amount of effort which has contributed to a noticeable difference in the performance of the CLSB”.

Last January, the LSB published its first assessment of the performance of all the regulatory bodies following the introduction of a new performance framework in December 2017. It measures each regulatory body against five standards and 26 underpinning outcomes.

The CLSB received the worst report by some distance, and the LSB highlighted several areas where action was needed. In an interim assessment in the summer, the LSB praised the progress made on certain aspects of the CLSB’s performance up to that point.

In the next assessment, carried out in November and published just before Christmas, the LSB said that the nine outstanding outcomes had not been achieved, but “this is not surprising given the extent of the changes required”.

Among the outstanding issues, it stressed that the CLSB “must follow through on the work it has done in developing new CPD arrangements and new disciplinary rules and procedures” by 31 May.

The CLSB also needs to provide the LSB with a “detailed resourcing plan, including actions and steps it will take in deciding its resourcing needs”, before its application for approval of next year’s practicing certificate fee.

But the assessment added that, notwithstanding the progress, the CLSB “has continued to be tested on two areas in particular”.

Under the outcome of understanding of resources needed to carry out regulatory functions, it said: “The CLSB has limited fixed resources and the recent departure of its head of operations [Lynn Plumbley] has created additional immediate challenges in this regard. We will maintain close contact with the CLSB on their interim resourcing solutions to ensure they are sufficient.”

In relation to the outcome ‘Regulatory arrangements updated based on robust evidence’, the LSB said: “This has been added as a new action and reflects issues with the quality of the content of the rule change application to introduce a new Costs Lawyers Competency Assessment (CLCA).”

It explained: “Despite significant engagement with the CLSB prior to the application, there were a number of significant issues which had an impact on the LSB’s ability to assess the application. These issues ranged from a lack of information and evidence to support the stated rationale for the CLCA, detail in the competence and threshold standard being proposed, evidence on the potential equality impact or costs implications of the proposal and detail of the plan for implementation.”

Across all the regulators, the LSB said, there were “clear signs of progress on the range of actions agreed in the assessments in January and June 2019, but generally the pace of delivery is slow and governance over regulatory performance must improve”.

Chief executive Matthew Hill (pictured) said: “We’ve seen some welcome improvement but in some key areas, particularly leadership, progress remains too slow. We’ll be focusing closely on this next year to try to inject some pace.”

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