Looking back . . . Cost Committees

I have been promising a retrospective on the Cost Committee years ever since their demise in October last year, but have held off until my final hearing. This seems finally to have happened.
On balance I will not miss this part of our work, despite the large majority of hearings being at least partly successful. There was a period during the Contract Compliance Wars, when these were so thick and fast that adrenaline took over and carried us through. That said, the daily grind of repetitive arguments began to grate and spending so much time with understandably depressed/disgruntled clients proved somewhat contagious.
Ultimately, the ever-present responsibility of running appeals which had significant, and on occasion firm threatening, recoupments at stake, sometimes running into 6 figures, which made it so draining. The occasional, and only on one occasion unsuccessful, CDS 7 appeals, generally against disallowed enhancement provided a bit of light relief.
Most CCs were friendly and receptive and I experienced less than half a dozen truly unacceptable hearings, one of which represented the very worst day of my life in JRS. (Others have reported similar experiences with the same Chairman). I could name a small bunch, less than 6, of Chairmen (they were men) who were unfit for the role, and probably a similar number with complete command of their brief and the background materials. My assessment of the latter is made regardless of the outcome for my clients. In the main, most did an adequate, if slightly timid job, generally ensuring a fair hearing. The influence of wing members was on the whole disappointing – especially when the Chairman was out of line. (There were notable exceptions to this, at least one of whom has been “punished” by not a single sitting as a new scheme adjudicator since). My main concern moving forward is that it will not be the small band of very capable members who will now be sitting as single adjudicators.
In the final analysis, I think the loss of the CC is to be mourned, if for no other reason for its transparency. As this reverts to largely considering single files for assessment, the actual cost savings of the new arrangements probably do not deliver cost benefit against that background.
That other small group of committee members who did not give my clients a fair break, and if they are reading this they will know who they are, I hope with hindsight you feel ashamed of yourselves.
Simon Pottinger

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One comment on “Looking back . . . Cost Committees

  • This was a “little” change which slipped through almost unnoticed inspite of my vociferous objections to our friends at the commission – and now what are we left with? Decisions by one individual sitting in his own office with no right of attendance by the appellant (us!) oh and that individual is picked by who? the Commission of course.
    I have to say that in fifteen years of doing this I have only “lost” 1 appeal before a costs committee and on the last 2 occasions didn’t even have to take my coat off! I have lost my only 2 before an independent assessor- my case rests.
    I first had the “honour” to meet SP at a costs committee in Birmingham I was sitting as a winger I could not possibly comment into which category as described by Simon I fall into! It was interesting to come across someone who knew his stuff but also knew where his client had clearly gone wrong. Reading between the lines of what he actually said was slightly more interesting to hearing what he actually said! Generally speaking colleagues on the Committee did their best but at times it was frightening that non criminal lawyers were being asked to deal with extrapolations that ran to in excess of 6 figures. I have to say that rarely did we disagree and nearly all decisions were unanimous – I strongly suspect that over a period of time I sat mainly with the same group of people no doubt the commissions thinking being if they put 3 “similar” rebels together at least it only messed up one set of appeals for them!
    I was always very worried that my training was provided by the people whose decisions were being appealed ie the LSC and I could not sit unless I went on that training- that has to be the only such arrangement in the country.
    I miss my visits to Birmingham I always felt like the wolf at grandmas house. Most of the Clerks had a grudging respect and one or two were extremely open at least behind the closed doors of the committee of the crassness of some decisions made- I will miss that banter.
    And yes inspite of the new system being in place for now 7 months or so I have not yet “sat” as an Independent Assessor.
    Finally I believe that SP is still enjoying the delights of Florida I have to say that in my several visits there not once have I been tempted to reflect on costs committees. If you are reading this Simon have a cocktail for me and do try and get a life!