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Lambeth spent £230k on legal fees over superhead departure

Lambeth council spent £230,000 on legal fees and investigations into England’s former best-paid primary headteacher in a case that has ended in a secret settlement.

Last month, Schools Week revealed how the council and Sir Craig Tunstall had reached a settlement to end a legal row over his controversial dismissal from the council-maintained Gipsy Hill Federation in 2018.

Residents said it left the community “not knowing what really happened” after the six-year saga.

Tunstall launched a high court case against Lambeth and the federation for damages of more than £200,000 over claims of negligence and breach of contract.

But the local authority made a counterclaim attempting to recover damages of potentially £500,000 from Tunstall.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the council spent £234,000 on the case. This includes nearly £160,000 on solicitor and barrister fees and £20,000 on court fees.

An additional £51,000 was spent on the original disciplinary investigation and £2,900 on a council’s fraud probe. This does not include any settlement figure.

Costs mount up

The costs are close to the £288,000 that Tunstall was accused of receiving without authorisation, which the council alleged in its court documents.

A council spokesperson said they “received external legal advice on this matter and for reasons which remain confidential between the parties” they were unable to comment further.

Simon Morrow, coordinator of community action group Peoples’ Audit, said: “Only Lambeth council and Sir Craig Tunstall know what has happened in this case.

“All we know is that, as council taxpayers, more than £230,000 of our money that could have been spent on cash-strapped services has ended up being paid to lawyers, seemingly to no end.”

Tunstall told Schools Week that the “astronomical amount” spent on legal fees was “rightly concerning”, adding: “If Lambeth’s processes and investigation were sufficiently rigorous and reliable, I fail to understand these costs and the ultimate outcome.”

He said he was prevented from discussing his settlement figure due to a non-disclosure agreement.

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