A number of amendments to the procedures for costs budgeting will take effect from 6 April. The main change, which is aimed at encouraging parties to agree budgets and thereby reduce the burden that costs budgeting places on the courts, is to require parties to file "budget discussion reports" seven days before the first case management conference. These must set out which figures in an opponent's budget are agreed, or not agreed, for each phase of the budget and a brief summary of the grounds of dispute. To facilitate this process, the date for filing of budgets will be brought forward to 21 days before the first case management conference, rather than seven as currently.
There is also a new express statement in the relevant practice direction that costs management orders are concerned with the totals allowed for each phase of the budget. It explains that the underlying detail in the budget is merely to assist the court in fixing a budget, and it is not the role of the court to fix or approve the hourly rates claimed. It is not clear how much this will add, however, given that the practice direction already states: "The court’s approval will relate only to the total figures for each phase of the proceedings, although in the course of its review the court may have regard to the constituent elements of each total figure."