PARENTS have blasted a council’s decision to spend almost £50,000 in legal fees during a school dispute.

East Sussex County Council spent £47,618 on lawyers during its campaign to convert Peacehaven Community School into a company-run academy, the National Education Union revealed.

This included £8,500 spent on barrister fees defending against legal action by parents that aimed to halt the academy plans.

Peacehaven Community School converted into an academy on September 1, meaning it can never return to council control.

Parent Ash Webster said she “could not believe” the council had spent thousands trying to “silence our voices”.

“As parents, all we ever asked for was to allow the community to have the opportunity to have a say,” she said.

“So much has changed in the two and a half years since the original consultation. Many parents didn’t have children at the school at the time.

“I can’t believe that, instead of running a fresh consultation and respecting the views of parents, the council instead chose to spend £8,500 on legal fees to silence our voices.”

Phil Clarke of East Sussex National Education Union called the spend a “waste”.

He said: “How can East Sussex County Council justify this level of spending to their constituents, when as recently as July, Councillor Keith Glazier was calling on the Government to provide additional funds to ease the financial pressures on the council?”

Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said it was “simply unacceptable” to “throw this level of taxpayer money down the drain”.

“I am absolutely disgusted to hear how much tax payer money has been flagrantly wasted by East Sussex County Council in lining the pockets of lawyers,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the county council said the costs were necessary to comply with the law and defend against parents’ legal action.

“There are significant and complex legal processes that have to be followed when a local authority school applies to the Department for Education to be converted to an academy,” she said.

“These legal processes must be completed to comply with statutory requirements laid down in law. Local authorities must adhere to them and meet the cost of the fees for doing so.”