The Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) has formally applied to the Legal Services Board for approval of a practising certificate fee (PCF) of £275 for 2021.
The PCF was static at £250 from 2011 to 2019 before being increased to £275 for the current year.
The CLSB received 17 responses to the consultation on the PCF it conducted in the summer, down from 30 last year, which it suggested was because this time it was not proposing to increase the fee.
Of those, 15 supported the proposed PCF, “with one expressing the view that the fee was good value for money and could in fact be higher”. The other two felt the fee should be reduced in light of Covid-19.
The CLSB said it remained of the view that a PCF of £275 was appropriate, noting that the two opponents did not explain how the proposed fee level would adversely impact them or other Costs Lawyers.
The CLSB’s proposed budget for 2020/21 is £182,875, based on the number of Costs Lawyers falling from 682 in the current year to 665. The application said: “This is a conservative estimate, informed primarily by: (i) the anticipated number of new qualifiers; (ii) typical net annual attrition; and (iii) data from our recent coronavirus impact survey in relation to the proportion of Costs Lawyers who are concerned about being able to carry on as a regulated practitioner.”
The budget includes a £10,000 contribution to reserves. The CLSB’s reserves policy provides for a target level of one year’s operating expenditure. As of the end of the second quarter of 2020, its reserves were £110,000.
It told the Legal Services Board: “Given the need to ensure we can deliver our full regulatory remit in the face of unforeseen challenges, we consider our targeted level of reserves to be necessary and appropriate, and we do not consider the CLSB to have high level reserves.
“We appreciate that a full year’s operating costs might represent high level reserves for a larger regulator, but our reserves are modest in absolute terms and a minimum level of reserve funding is needed to provide a buffer against unexpected events, many of which create the same liability for a small regulator as they do for a large one (such as litigation).”
The proposed £10,000 contribution to the reserves to reach this goal represented “a material but not disproportionately burdensome contribution”.
The CLSB explained that it has changed the way it set the budget, moving from basing it on previous years’ expenditure to “a more forward-looking approach, starting with a comprehensive examination of our expenditure”.
It said: “We believe our 2021 budget (and thus the proposed PCF) gives us the resource we need, on a costed basis, to deliver our priorities and continue to make substantial improvements to our organisation’s performance.
“At the same time, a static PCF will provide consistency for the profession in uncertain times, ensuring that the financial burden of regulation does not increase in a year when job security and income stability have been undermined by Covid-19 in unprecedented ways.”
Meanwhile, the CLSB has begun the process of recruiting a new lay chair, ahead of Steve Winfield (pictured) stepping down at the end of March 2021 after seven years in the role.
“We are looking for a collaborative, pragmatic and forward-thinking leader to guide the organisation over the coming years and support the executive in delivering our strategic priorities,” it said in the application pack.
The chair receives a salary of £8,000 a year, plus reasonable travel expenses, in return for chairing four board meetings a year and committing approximately two days a month to CLSB-related activities. They will be appointed for an initial period of one year and may be reappointed for up to seven years in total. Applications close on 1 November.