Costs News

10 September 2015
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News in brief 10th September 2015

New SCCO judge
Jennifer James has been appointed as a costs judge, it was announced last week, and will start work at the Senior Courts Costs Office on 21 September. A deputy master for some years, she is also a lecturer at the University of Law and is the keynote speaker at the ACL’s Manchester conference on 25 September.

The ACL said it was “delighted” by her appointment. A statement said: “Jennifer is a stalwart and long-term supporter of the ACL and has worked with the education committee for several years. We congratulate her on her appointment and wish her many happy years at the SCCO.”

Another costs judge is expected to appointed shortly, with both Chief Master Hurst and Master Campbell to be replaced.

LAA highlights common billing errors
The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has published the most common errors picked up by tests of provider payments that are causing delays in billing and money being recovered. These were:

• Work claimed not covered by the certificate;
• Courier fees not justified;
• Work not evidenced on the file;
• Work claimed while a ‘show cause’ notice was in place;
• Administrative work being claimed incorrectly. “You can only claim for the direct  provision of client services. For example, on one file, 48 minutes of work was claimed for reviewing the cost position on three separate occasions. This work is considered purely administrative”;
• Not fully justifying travel time and associated costs. “Claims from home rather than the office will only be accepted if the travel was shorter or less expensive that from the office,” it noted; and
• Disbursement vouchers not being provided for expenses over £20. An explanatory note is needed on the file if the nature of the disbursement, such as court fees and mileage, means vouchers are not available.

Meanwhile, the LAA has made a further improvement to the Client and Costs Management System. These allow users to amend provider details, amend the case correspondence address, and allocate and assign costs to an advocate, while another amendment is in progress.

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