Life as a West Ham United fan must be painful enough at the best of times, but it was particularly trying at the weekend. Their game at Manchester City was called off with just hours until kick-off, as the authorities deemed that Storm Ciara had made conditions unsafe to stage a match.
The wasted train journeys and hotel rooms must have grated, not least because return journeys had to be encountered in the face of those same treacherous conditions. But what was so frustrating was that this decision had to be delayed as long as it was. Everyone knew days before that the storm was coming at pretty much kick-off time. It would have been sensible all-round to simply accept the inevitable and not leave Hammers fans in limbo until it was too late.
Personal injury lawyers could certainly emphathise. The chances of the Ministry of Justice going live with its RTA claims portal on 6 April – as exasperatingly officials keep insisting – are about the same as Ciara deciding to avoid the Etihad Stadium as she weaved her way across the UK.
No-one, be it lawyers, insurers or I suspect the civil servants handed this hospital pass of a task, believes the portal will be on time now. So why keep up this pretence and leave those whose livelihoods depending on it waiting for the inevitable postponement?
A reminder: as of 6 April the portal has to be capable of processing RTA claims worth up to £5,000, used by both lawyers and people without legal representation, and provide a fair and balanced compensation settlement for injured people. It must be suitable for people who are not computer literate (or even have access to a computer), be available in a range of languages, offer a free ADR service for those who believe their claim is worth more, and have built-in a system for cases where insurers deny liability. It must be backed by a pre-action protocol and rules yet to be signed off, and will award damages based on tariffs yet to be published.
The final nail surely came last week, when the Civil Procedure Rule Committee met to discuss the MoJ’s proposed protocol but put off (understandably) a substantive discussion until March. At best, the rules will be signed off with just days until the system goes live.
There is speculation that the MoJ is having trouble finding an ADR partner, which is hardly surprising given the number of unanswered questions. Why commit to providing alternative dispute resolution when you have no idea how many cases you’ll be handling. When I asked the MoJ on Friday what was happening, it simply said the details were still being finalised.
Whatever your opinion on the PI reforms, it’s unacceptable to leave businesses in the dark about how they will operate from April. We know the storm clouds are on the horizon, yet the MoJ digs in and continues to insist the forecast is bright. They should do the right thing and confirm a postponement before any more time and money is wasted on this patently unachievable April charade.