CAERPHILLY council will have spent at least £643,364 dealing with the issues of asbestos at Cwmcarn High School come the end of the school year.

This includes the costs of surveys, transporting pupils to alternative accommodation in Ebbw Vale and keeping the vacant school secure.

But nothing has yet been done to manage or remove asbestos at the site.

This amount does not take in account costs for the latest management survey by Ensafe or the fee being paid to asbestos expert Robin Howie who is advising the council on the issue.

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows the total cost of keeping the building safe since pupils and teachers were forced to leave will amount to £39,552 by the end of July.

It also shows the council spent £68,000 getting the redundant Coleg Gwent building in Ebbw Vale fit for purpose, including a general clean up, correcting defective equipment and removing surplus items.

The authority is not paying the institution anything to rent the building but it incurred £2,000 in legal costs, spent £20,000 on improved security, £33,000 to move materials and equipment from Cwmcarn and £4,000 cleaning costs.

So far the council has spent £260,000 transporting pupils to their new home in Ebbw Vale and by the end of summer term this will have risen to £471,000.

The authority has already said the total cost of the relocation could be up to £1.4 million, which includes the running costs of the building.

The initial Santia Asbestos Management Ltd report, which sparked the closure, cost the council £5,812, the figures show.

For this the company carried out a survey of heater cabinets, asbestos bulk and dust sampling. It also conducted air sampling in Block A and reviewed all previous asbestos surveys undertaken at the site including asbestos management, refurbishment and demolition surveys before compiling a report on its findings.

Costs for the latest Ensafe management report funded by the council are not available.

Kelly East, of the Save Cwmcarn campaign group, said she was “disgusted” at the costs, which, she said could have been avoided had the asbestos been dealt with in situ as the school asked.

She said: “It’s ridiculous.

It’s really disgusting that they don’t seem to have taken into consideration the long term costs. We said fromthe beginning we wanted to remain on the site and put up portacabins – that was put to them and dismissed.

“They were wrong tomove us to Ebbw Vale, we could have done everything they wanted in situ and save this money for the work needed.”

The information also showed the council carried out eight building projects at the school in the past five years totalling £376,420 - £15,000 of which was specifically allocated to the removal of asbestos in 2009/10.

Parents have now launched a Buy a Brick campaign to raise the £1 million it will cost to remove asbestos at the site.

Caerphilly council declined to comment.

ARGUS COMMENT: We need an answer

THERE seems no end in sight to the saga of Cwmcarn High School.

As we reveal today, the cost to the public purse since the school was closed due to asbestos fears five months ago will soon be more than half a million pounds.

And yet nothing has been done to manage or remove asbestos at the school.

It seems to us that more time is being spent playing politics than taking action to decide the future of the school. Meanwhile, Cwmcarn’s 900-plus pupils remain in limbo, bussed to Ebbw Vale every day for their education with no idea of when (if ever) they will return to their school.

Caerphilly council and Save Cwmcarn campaigners appear to be involved in a public relations war over whether the school is safe to reopen or not.

Each side has commissioned reports from experts.

Each side interprets the results of those reports differently.

We do not criticise either side, other than to say there should not be “sides” in this situation.

Everyone involved in the Cwmcarn debate should want the best for the children of the school. At present, the situation is entirely unsatisfactory.

Pupils, staff and parents need a definitive answer about the school’s future.

The time for politics and posturing is over.

What is needed now is honesty, transparency and openness.