Hertfordshire County Council spent £28,572 on a High Court case against the parent of a child with SEND.

In the case, a judge found that Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) is acting unlawfully every time it fails to complete a child's EHCP within 20 weeks.

The council initially refused to disclose how much it had spent on the case, stating that it would "not be appropriate, fair or lawful" to do so in response to a freedom of information request.

But a council spokesperson has now told this newspaper that after an "internal review", the "total cost to the council of the court case has been £22,703.50".

The figure includes £16,375 spent on barristers, with an additional £6,328.50 as the cost of their internal legal team.

The council previously confirmed its internal legal team had spent 225.3 hours on the case - meaning the cost appears to be equivalent to £28.09 per hour.

However, the true cost of the case is higher than that stated by the council. This newspaper has seen documents showing that the council also paid £5,868.61 to Z, the parent of the child in the case. The payment covered Z's costs.

It means that the council spent a total of £28,572.11 on the case.

The council did not answer questions we put to them about why their stance on providing the costs had changed.

They previously stated that their "internal legal teams costs are not charged for in a manner that would make it possible to provide the cost".

The council fought the case despite admitting, in a letter sent to Z several months before the court case, that the council had "breached its duty" under the Children and Families Act 2014 and SEND Regulations 2014 by "failing to complete the assessment and issue the final EHC Plan within the statutory time limit".

A council spokesperson said: “We are always mindful of the cost of defending legal action brought against us, but we will defend cases when we believe we have grounds to do so.

"In this case, mindful of the costs for both parties, we have been able to reach a negotiated settlement, minimising the expense for everyone involved.

"We are committed to being as open and transparent as possible while working hard to ensure that services meet the needs of the children with special educational needs and disabilities.

“That’s why we commissioned an independent review into a specific area of the service in response to a complaint from a parent and jointly agreed the terms of reference and the choice of independent barrister with them.

“We are awaiting the outcome of the review and we will carefully consider any recommendations and include them in our ongoing work to improve the experiences and outcomes for children and young people with SEND.”

However, Z told this newspaper that it was he who had "proposed the independent review to minimise costs".

"It was HCC who resisted this, and it took over four months before they accepted.

"I have saved them money, not the other way round!

"The 'lack of a candid position by the local authority' - as the judge put it - is not acceptable.

"The evidence, including their initial refusal to disclose this information, suggests HCC are continuing to act in a deceitful way, and shows they have learned nothing from this exercise in wasting public money on attempts to silence victims.

"It is little wonder that they have been criticised by Ofsted and the High Court judge and that there is a concurrent police investigation into their conduct. 

"The deceit by HCC is worrying enough. It's more worrying to consider what they may be trying to hide."

A council spokesperson said that the authority "strongly refutes any claims of deceitful practice".