A regional costs judge has given the strongest indication yet that mandatory costs budgeting rules will soon apply to higher-value cases.

Commercial cases valued more than £2m were controversially left out of the Jackson reforms last year after a late amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules.

The argument about bringing such cases under the new costs management regime has continued ever since, with City lawyers in particular arguing for the exemption to be retained.

District judge Christopher Lethem, a regional costs judge and member of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee, suggested to a conference this morning the cut-off figure could be made ‘significantly higher’ than £2m.

Lethem, speaking to the Association of Costs Lawyers, would not put a figure on any new threshold, but added: ‘If I were going to William Hill [an increase] is what I’d put my money on.’

Master of the rolls Lord Dyson has already indicated he is ‘anxious’ the issue is reconsidered.

A sub-committee of the CPR committee last year finished a consultation on why the new rules should not apply to specialist courts, having suggested the exemption may be ‘unnecessary and inappropriate’.

Meanwhile, a legal costs expert has suggested the regional judges may not be taking the same hardline approach to enforcing the Jackson reforms as the Court of Appeal.

Appeal court judges have been quick to punish non-compliance with new rules in cases such as Mitchell v News Group and Durrant v Avon & Somerset Constabulary.

Professor Dominic Regan, of City Law School, told the conference it was ‘wonderful fiction and a pipedream’ to imagine Mitchell will be abandoned at senior levels.

But he noted that some judges felt ‘overwhelmed and intimidated’ by the prospect of enforcing costs management compliance and one district judge had suggested the Jackson reforms ‘do not apply’ to his home town.